A person holds up their phone.
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu shows his receipt after placing the first legal sports wagering bet on his mobile phone in Manchester, N.H., Dec. 30, 2019. Credit: Charles Krupa / AP

Gov. Janet Mills signed a historic deal into law on Monday that will put Maine among a group of more than 30 states that have legalized sports betting.

Betting will wait, though. Regulators say betting could go live as late as 2024, which would be longer than the average state so far. That notion is prompting early pushback from tribes who will control the mobile betting market.

Here is how the business will be rolled out in Maine and the sticking points.

Mills’ signature begins a long rulemaking process.

The measure will overhaul the state’s relationship with tribes in several ways, but sports betting is the most notable provision. Mobile betting is expected to account for 85 percent of the industry, while in-person licenses are set aside for casinos and off-track betting parlors. Gross revenue is taxed at 10 percent

After the law takes effect in the summer, the state will hire two new employees to oversee the sports betting industry, said Milton Champion, the executive director of Maine’s gambling control unit. Applications and rules will need to be drafted after that, with even the issuing of temporary licenses contingent on that process.

Rules may be the real delay. Public hearings and written comments are required, a process that Champion said could take from eight months to a year and half to complete. That range runs from April 2023 to early 2024. That timeline depends on the response from the industry, Champion said. The go-live date would come sometime after that.

“Compared to other states, while Maine may be low in population and potential revenue from sports wagering, as Director I will not take any shortened measures to regulate this industry,” Champion wrote in an email this week.

States have generally taken far shorter paths to implementation.

That would put Maine on the long end of the national sports betting rollout, which began with a 2018 ruling from the Supreme Court. On average, states have taken 156 days from legalization to launch in-person betting and 237 days for mobile betting, according to data compiled by Victor-Strategies, an Illinois gaming consultancy that works mostly with tribes.

There are many reasons why states take more or less time. For instance, New Hampshire legalized mobile betting in July 2019 and launched it that December. That was an exclusive partnership between the online platform DraftKings and the state lottery. In Maine, tribes will have to ink a deal with a licensed platform to get going.

Tribes and allies are starting to push back on Maine’s conservative path. Corey Hinton, a Passamaquoddy lawyer who represents tribes, said “something has gone seriously amiss” if rules take until 2024.

“In a perfect world, maybe this will be achieved in a smaller amount of time,” said Gene Johnson, executive vice president of Victor-Strategies.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...