In this March 11, 2022, file photo, Gov. Janet Mills attends an event at the Blaine House in Augusta. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Janet Mills on Monday signed her bill giving the tribes in Maine exclusive access to mobile sports betting and changing the state’s relationship with them on a more limited basis than chiefs wanted.

The bill was enacted by the Legislature last Monday. Sen. Joe Baldacci, D-Bangor, who brokered an amendment to the bill to allow Hollywood Casino to conduct in-person betting at its casino, had said the governor’s signing was delayed by her Thursday COVID-19 diagnosis.

The proposal was the Democratic governor’s answer to a sweeping tribal sovereignty bill that is on track to die by the end of the session. It would give the tribes exclusive control over the mobile sports betting industry, as well as change taxation laws and set up a collaboration process with the tribes on state policy that may affect them. Mills had threatened to veto her own measure if the bigger sovereignty bill came to her desk.

The bill initially angered gaming proponents and casinos that supported a different sports betting law, but it has been praised by tribal supporters as an important step in tribal relations, if not the exact step that tribal leaders wanted. 

Mills had asked Augusta’s top Democrats to hold the bigger sovereignty bill last week to avoid creating conflict. Tribal leaders later responded, saying its fate remains in the Legislature’s hands but noting the sports betting bill and a measure giving the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point more agency over their water quality were big steps that could be built upon. Mills thanked the tribes Monday for working together on the bill.

When sports betting will come online is not clear. The bill will become law 90 days after its signing, but Gambling Control Unit Executive Director Milton Champion declined to comment on when sports betting might become available last week, saying he will take direction from the bill when it becomes law.