Milton Champion, head of Maine's Gambling Control Unit, speaks to reporters about proposed rules for sports betting in the state, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023, in Augusta, Maine. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

AUGUSTA, Maine — The official running Maine’s sports betting rollout was placed on administrative leave last week after issuing a tweet that used a sexist slur.

Milton Champion, the executive director of the Gambling Control Unit within the Maine Department of Public Safety, tweeted in early May about a recent comment made to him about how referring to a group of women as “ladies” was not appropriate.

“In this day and age I guess ‘Bitches’ is better,” he wrote.

The tweet remained online as of Monday evening. The Portland Press Herald first reported on Champion’s social media posts on Monday, but Maine State Police Lt. Thomas Pickering, an acting spokesperson for the public safety department, said Champion’s paid leave began last Wednesday for a human resources review.

“Given that this is an ongoing, personnel-related matter, the Department is unable to comment further,” Pickering said.

Champion has worked as Maine’s top gaming regulator since 2016. The most public part of his tenure has been in overseeing the implementation of sports betting in Maine under a law signed in 2021 by Gov. Janet Mills. It sets aside a new mobile betting market for tribes and allows casinos and off-track betting parlors to control a smaller in-person handle.

He has charted a conservative path to legal betting, initially saying it could take until 2024 to finalize rules. His draft set of regulations drew criticism from many in the industry due to heavy restrictions on advertising that were relaxed in a set of rules that were loosened after another revision released recently. Betting is now on track for the fall.

Champion only has 61 Twitter followers, but he is active on the platform. While he mostly uses it to comment on gambling, he has sometimes weighed in on political subjects. On May 14, he replied to a liberal commentator’s tweet on a far-right group marching near the U.S. Capitol.

“At least they are not burning down cities and looting stores,” he said, mirroring conservative lines on racial justice protests across the country in 2020 that were largely peaceful, with Minneapolis among the cities that saw violence and looting.

Champion also used the platform to praise Mills after meeting with her in 2019 for the first time during her tenure as governor, saying he came away “impressed.” He was behind a sports betting bill that Champion helped craft but was vetoed in 2020 by the governor.

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...