Seated from left, Dan Shapiro of Caesars Sportsbook; Chief Edward Peter-Paul of Mi’kmaq Nation, Chief Clarissa Sabattis of Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians and Chief Kirk Francis of Penobscot Nation prepare to sign a Partnership Agreement to offer mobile sports betting under Maine State law. In the back are, from left, Mi’kmaq Vice Chief Richard Silliboy, Maliseet Council Woman Cathy St. John, Maliseet Council Woman Beth Aucoin, and Penobscot Tribal Ambassador Maulian Dana. Credit: Courtesy of Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians

HOULTON, Maine — A partnership with the wagering company Caesars Sportsbook will give Maine’s three tribal nations new economic development opportunities, according to Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians Chief Clarissa Sabattis.

Maine’s Wabanaki Tribes were given exclusive rights to operate mobile sports wagering in the state under LD 585, Maine’s new sports betting law that went into effect in August. Prior to the new law, which was supported by Maine Gov. Janet Mills, the state’s tribal nations had been excluded from any gambling operations.

Last week Sabattis and Houlton Band of Maliseet Indian tribal council members joined leadership delegations from Mi’kmaq Nation and Penobscot Nation for a signing ceremony in Augusta with Caesars Sportsbook representatives to formalize their partnership.

The new law allowing the tribes to operate gaming franchises will contribute to their goal for economic independence and help strengthen the local economy, according to Sabattis.

“It’s exciting,” Sabattis said. “It’s a new step for the tribe and an opportunity we have not been able to gain access to previously.”

Mobile sports betting is a form of wagering that uses apps on smartphones and tablets

to access online sportsbooks. It allows players to bet on sporting competitions from

anywhere and at any time, as long as they have internet access on their devices.

Signing with Caesars was just the beginning, Sabattis said. There are several considerations that need finalizing within the proposed regulations before the state issues licenses to the three tribal nations, she said.  

Among the issues still undecided include advertising limits that prohibit famous sports figures and celebrities from promoting sports wagering ads and all advertisements must be filed with the Maine Gaming Control Board 10 days prior to distribution.  

Once the program is up and running, which could still take several months, it’s hard to know how much revenue it will generate for the shareholders, which include Caesars, the state and the tribal nations, Sabattis said.

Under the law, the mobile sports wagering operator will give 25 percent of the income it generates in Maine to the state, with 24 percent of the funds deposited into the General Fund for the Department of Education’s essential K through 12 programs and 1 percent for the administrative expenses of the Maine Gaming Control Board

When Ohio launched mobile sports betting in January, wagers t opped $1.1 billion, with a state take of $20 million. That was triple previous state projections.

New Hampshire’s mobile sports wagers since they began three years ago are $1.8 billion, according to state officials.  

Sabattis said in a March letter to the Maine Gaming Control Board that sports wagering will directly deliver significant economic benefits to the state.

Additionally, the revenues the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians generates will be invested in tribal community needs such as housing, health care and new development opportunities. These will create economic benefits that ripple well beyond the tribal community, into nearby towns, she said.

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Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli

Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli is a reporter covering the Houlton area. Over the years, she has covered crime, investigations, health, politics and local government, writing for the Washington Post, the LA...