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Jonathan Crimmins: Losing bets - Portland Press Herald

17th January, 09:33

Sometimes hypocrisy can be subtle and sometimes it can smack you in the face. One of those smack-you-in-the-face moments happened last week when the governor sent word to the Legislature that she was vetoing several bills that were held over from last year.

Of the 27 bills that needed some determination, she decided to veto LD 553, An Act to Ensure Proper Oversight of Sports Betting in the State. Sports betting was made legal in 2018 after the United States Supreme Court ruled in Murphy v. NCAA that states can begin to allow betting on sports. The ruling also gave each state oversight of betting within their borders.

No big deal right? You want to bet on a basketball game? Great. Want to bet on who wins the Super Bowl? Awesome. Want to bet how long it took the Sox to fire Cora? What? Too soon?

Yes, this should have been a no brainer. Other states have opened up their sportsbook to take bets. Other states have allowed in online sports betting sites to set up shop and provide a recreational service to their residents. This would have allowed the state of Maine to capitalize on a legal product and bring in tax revenue. No matter if the take was large or small, there would still be some money coming into the State's coffers due to gambling.

Why would the governor veto this bill?

Well in the nearly two-page press release that was distributed on Jan. 10, the governor mentioned how, "...I remain unconvinced at this time that the majority of Maine people are ready to legalize, support, endorse and promote betting on competitive athletic events." Gov. Mills is unconvinced that you have any idea what you would like to do with the money that you earned or were given or came to without the expressed consent of those in Augusta.

The governor thanked the Legislature for their long hours that were put into this bill. She wanted them to know how important the work was while still ultimately turning her nose and veto pen toward that work.

The governor went on to throw roadblocks at future attempts to make sports betting legal in Maine. We need to "examine." We need to "better understand the evolving experiences of other states." We need to "determine the best approach for Maine." All this says that Maine must wait until states all over the nation saturate the market. This concept is just wrong. If it is legal then let the people of Maine partake in it.

Even New Hampshire, the state most poised to gain from Maine's stalling tactics, has embraced sports betting. Earlier this week on a radio show I heard New Hamsphire Gov. Chris Sununu talk up his state's experiences with sports betting. Although it has been legal for a short amount of time in New Hampshire, betting has brought in nearly $10 million to the state. Not a bad haul for several weeks' worth of work.

Of course, there has be another reason for Maine not to legalize this activity. Could it be that Gov. Mills does not want to share?

According to a press release from 2010 the lottery director, Dan Gwadosky, stated that the lottery was ever so excited to announce that they had surpassed $1 billion in contributions to the state's General Fund since its inception. That is a lot of moola being spent on scratch tickets, pick 3's and 4's, Megabucks and the like.

If there is no problem with the state selling their legalized form of gambling to the good people of our land, why not allow other forms? It seems that the people are crying out for this form of entertainment. In fact, the lottery released a financial statement in 2018 detailing how successful the lottery was. From 2010 to 2018 people in the state spent more than $2.1 billion on lottery games. $2.1 billion!

If that number does not scream out that people in Maine are eager to try new forms of betting I don't know what does. How many people do you know that participate in a football pool at work? How many do squares? How many people fill out a bracket for March Madness and put money into a pool? How many friends of yours play some form of fantasy football or the like and make a small wager? If this is what the people want why is one person standing in their way in Augusta?

I would be willing to bet that the state or Gov. Mills will feel much better about sports betting once the state gets a bigger cut of the pie. I would be willing to bet on it, and that would be a sure thing.

Jonathan Crimmins can be reached at [email protected]

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