“Never Seen Lobbying Like This”
Intense lobbying by the governor and state casinos has put Tuesday’s expected House override of the Maine sports betting veto in doubt.
Rep. Scott Strom tells Legal Sports Report that since the Senate vote to override her veto Thursday, Gov. Janet Mills is calling through Democrats in the House asking them not to overturn the veto.
Additionally, legislators are hearing not only from lobbyists of Hollywood Casino Bangor and Oxford Casino but from hundreds of employees of Oxford as well.
“I’ve never seen lobbying like this before on any bill,” Strom said. “I mean, the governor is working the Democrats trying to get them to the sustain and the casinos are working everybody really hard right now.”
Party loyalty could undo bipartisan support
While the Senate took three weeks to maneuver the successful two-thirds override vote, Strom, the House sponsor of LLD 53, expressed confidence the votes were there in his chamber.
After all, the House didn’t even take a tally of the vote when passing the bill last year because the overwhelming support was obvious.
“I went in today thinking we were a lock in the House, and now I don’t know,” Strom said. “It’s a toss-up. It’s going to come down to how successful the governor is at lobbying. The Democrats have a big majority, and if she succeeds, then that takes it.”
In the Senate, 15 of the 20 votes to override came from Democrats.
“I’m kind of surprised the governor cares about it this much, but maybe she doesn’t care about the issue as much as not having her veto overrode by her own party,” Strom said.
Casinos oppose Maine sports betting bill
The state’s two casinos opposed the legislation because it allows out-of-state companies to offer mobile Maine sports betting independently. The casinos want only companies that partner with in-state facilities to be allowed to participate.
To address that concern of gaming entities who invested in the state should get priority, the bill provides a tiered-tax structure of 10% for brick-and-mortar facilities and 16% for mobile wagering. In an editorial this week, the Bangor Daily News supported the override for this reason.
Strom expressed surprise that Oxford Casino would make such an effort to block sports betting in Maine, given its proximity to the New Hampshire border and the customers it is losing to the neighboring state where NH sports betting is legal.
House proponents also working the whip
Rep. John Schneck, whose district includes the Hollywood Casino Bangor, supports the bill and is trying to get Democrats on board to override. Schneck chairs the House Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs that worked on the bill.
Strom warned that if the casinos are successful in blocking the Maine sports betting bill, it might not be as easy as they think to get their preferred language in subsequent legislation.
“There’s so much anger now between some of us at the casinos that I don’t know if they get what they want passed next year in the legislature if enough people are back who they upset,” Strom said.
House veto override vote coming
When Strom left the statehouse today, he was told the vote was still going to run Tuesday. That could be good or bad. In the Senate, the president was on board and put off the vote until it would be successful.
In the House, members still don’t know where the speaker stands on the issue, and it’s her choice when the vote is run. Speaker Sara Gideon is in the middle of a big election campaign, running for a seat in the US Senate.
If the override isn’t successful, it could be a long wait for sports betting in Maine.
“If this doesn’t pass, there’s no other bill this year,” Strom said. “You’d have to start over next January. We’ve already missed the Super Bowl and we’re going to miss March Madness because the governor didn’t sign it last summer.”
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