Important ME Notes
- Playing at offshore poker websites is legal from ME
- No bills to date have been introduced legalizing online poker
- Land-based poker is legal only in regulated environments
- Maine has two commercial casinos, but no tribal properties
- Hollywood Casino in Bangor, only live poker room
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Maine is like the vast majority of other US states (47 to be exact) where there is no statute on the books for the authorization, regulation and licensing of online poker sites. There is no significant history of Maine seeking to legalize and regulate any form of online gambling within their borders. Maine does not have a licensing system set up that allows potential operators to apply for poker site licenses online, nor are there any plans to create one in the near future. Having said that, however, offshore online poker websites report that players from Maine regularly visit their sites and wager for real money legally in tournaments and cash games.
Future Outlook of Online Poker in Maine – Estimated date of legalization: 2020-2021
The following graph tracks our expected legislation of online poker in Maine on a state law level. It is currently already legal on a Federal level. This graph monitors the current rise or fall of expected legalization.
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With a tiny population of just 1.33 million, and with just a couple of state regulated land casinos, it seems that the legalization of online gambling and poker in the state of Maine is not very likely in the near future. That is not to be said, however, that the option is not on the books at all. Should other states follow in the path of Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada, as well as the many other states investigating the option of legalizing online poker on an intrastate basis, Maine could be one of those that jump on the bandwagon. In addition, Maine has also been a victim of the recession, like all other states, and is continuously trying to find ways to expand its revenue sources.
It should be assumed that lawmakers will keep a careful eye on those states that have already entered into this vast new arena to see how their economies fare and benefit from legal online poker. In recent years, Maine has sought to expand its gambling industry, beginning with the opening of its first modern commercial casino in June 2012, the Oxford Casino. It may very well be that this expansion is only the beginning of Maine’s journey into legalizing other forms of gambling, including online gambling and poker.
History of Gambling in Maine
Land Based Poker in Maine
The game of poker is not legal in the state of Maine unless played in a regulated environment, falling under the laws which also govern gambling in general (see section below: Gambling Laws in Maine). The law specifically refers to games requiring card shuffling as being part of the law, and Section 952 (C) states that the law:
“Includes but is not limited to a shuffle of a deck or decks of cards, a roll of a die or dice or a random drawing of generation of an object or objects that may include, but are not limited to, a card or cards, a die or dice, a number or numbers or simulations of any kind.” This naturally refers to card games such as poker, and has been taken to also mean the shuffling and dealing of virtual cards, as in the case of online poker.
As such, card and table games such as casino poker can only be played at the regulated casinos, Hollywood Casino and Oxford Casino. Home poker games are considered kosher as they fall under social gaming, on condition that nobody takes a rake, fee or cover charge.
Gambling Laws in Maine
Gambling laws in Maine are covered by Code Section 17-A-951 et seq.; 8-301; 8-285 et. seq; 8-261A, et seq [B].
Essentially, gambling is defined as, “staking or risking something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event, with intent to receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome.”
Maine offers a small range of gambling options to its citizens. For example, harness horse racing and off track betting is allowed, although greyhound racing and interstate simulcasts of greyhound racing is prohibited. Casinos are only allowed to be built on Passamaquoddy tribal lands.
Bingo clubs are allowed for individual players aged 62 years or older, although licenses for charitable games can be applied for. Raffles are also allowed. It is illegal to partake in bookmaking, mutuel schemes, the promotion of gambling, and the possession of gambling records and/or devices. Illegal gambling machines (including money) are subject to forfeiture by state authorities.
Penalties for those breaking Maine’s strict gambling laws are stiff, but they are usually directed towards gambling operators and less towards players. In fact, there is no stated penalty for players caught breaking the law, but operators are looking at prison terms of up to a decade as well as a fine of $20,000.
Gambling in the state is regulated and overseen by the Gambling Control Board [C].
Major expansion was made to Maine’s gambling landscape in 2004, when slot games were approved at racing tracks, and again in 2012 with the introduction of table games at Hollywood Slots (and subsequently Oxford Casino). Efforts continue to expand gambling in the state, although 2014 was not a successful year for proponents seeking bigger options for the industry.
In March of 2014, a bill pushed by Maine’s American Indian tribes and its horse racing industry to build new casinos died in the Legislature [D], after lawmakers said that the state has to create a new regulatory process before the approval of new slot games. The Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians wanted to build a casino in Aroostook County, while Scarborough Downs racetrack, which also sought to create a resort casino with a hotel and other features, was met with disappointment after their application was turned down.
Lawmakers say that a competitive bidding process has to be created before adding new casinos to the existing two, allowing the state to have more control over license fees and other aspects of potential poker sites.
At the time, Republican Sen. Garrett Mason of Lisbon Falls asked: “Is there a market to be expanded on gaming in Maine? If there is, how are we going to create the most jobs and get the most money for the General Fund? These are questions that must be answered before we expand gaming any further in the state.”
The proposals have been fought by the operators of Hollywood and Oxford Casinos, who claim that any new slot machines will cannibalize their businesses. However, since Oxford opened, there has been a 25% drop in revenue at Scarborough Downs, and the racetrack is seeking to offset these losses by building a new casino resort.
Support, however, continues to mount for a Maine Gaming Study Bill [E] – a $150,000 study on the feasibility of additional gaming and the impact it will have on the state’s two casinos. Some lawmakers are opposed to the bill, saying that it will be detrimental to veterans and fraternal organizations.
As noted, there are two casinos in Maine, the Hollywood Casino and Oxford Casino.
Hollywood Casino: This Bangor based casino was the first regulated gambling establishment in Maine and offers 1,000 Vegas style slots, harness racing, table games and more. The casino is open daily from 8am until 3am. All the popular traditional reel and video slots, video poker and video roulette games are found on the casino floor, with denominations ranging from 1c to $10. The casino also offers an exclusive High Limit area with bigger stakes, huge jackpots and impressive payouts.
Hollywood Casino’s table games include Let it Ride Bonus Poker, craps, roulette, blackjack, Lucky Ladies, Three Card Poker and Texas Hold ’em Bonus. The casino also boasts a Live Poker room – Maine’s only live poker room – which is also open daily from 8am to 3am. The poker room offers Limit and No Limit Texas Hold ’em, Omaha, and 7 card stud, depending on player demand and table availability.
Oxford Casino: This newer gaming establishment has been touted as Maine’s first commercial casino, offering visitors a unique gaming and entertainment experience – from table games to slot machines, on-site eateries, bars and more.
Oxford Casino offers a wide range of exciting table games, including Blackjack, Spanish 21,craps, roulette, mini-baccarat, three card poker, Ultimate Texas Hold ’em, Mississippi Stud Poker, Let it Ride and Big Six.
In addition, players will find a diverse selection of state of the art reel and video slot machines, with a full range of denominations to appeal to all levels of players.
Players need to be 21 years of age or older to play at both casinos in Maine.
Scarborough Downs is the state’s largest race track and was constructed in 1949 as a racetrack for thoroughbred horse races.
In the 1960s, both thoroughbred racing and harness racing were offered at Scarborough, but in 1972, the track switched to harness racing only. In the 2000’s, Scarborough Downs introduced simulcast wagering and began to offer simulcast races from thoroughbred and harness tracks around the United States and Canada.
Scarborough Downs is situated on 500 acres in the heart of Southern Maine.
Hollywood Casino offers live harness racing every May through November, while simulcast harness racing can also be watched from all over the country. Simulcast racing can be found at the Race Book and the Win, Place and Show Lounge [F].
Established under Title 5, Section 12004 GT, subsection 32, The Maine State Harness Racing Commission [G] was appointed by the state governor to oversee live Harness Racing and Off Track Betting facilities in the state. The Commission also adopts rules that ensure high leels of integrity for participants in the sport and fans of it.
The horse racing industry in Maine receives shares of slot machine revenue from the casinos in Bangor and Oxford, and, according to the Maine Sunday Herald [H], from November 2007 until 2011, the Harness Racing Commission received more than $54 million for agricultural fairs and purse supplements.
Maine was one of the first states to introduce a state lottery and oversees the sale and distribution of multiple draw tickets, including the Tri-State Megabucks Plus, Powerball, Mega Millions, Hot Lotto, Lucky for Life, Tri-State Pick 3 and Pick 4, as well as instant lottery tickets.
The lottery was established in 1974 after a statewide referendum and every year literally millions of dollars are distributed in the form of prize money and through programs and services supported by the State’s General Fund. Since its inception, the lottery has paid out over $2.2 billion in prize money and $1 billion to good causes.
Lottery tickets can be purchased through multiple retail outlets such as large chain grocery and convenience stores. Some stores only sell instant tickets. There are no websites that sell lottery tickets by the state.
Players as young as 16 years of age can play charitable bingo in Maine, which takes place in live bingo halls around the state. Laws governing Beano or Bingo are found under Title 17, Chapter 13-A: Beano or Bingo [I].
The law states, among other things that, “a person, firm, association or corporation may not hold, conduct or operate the amusement commonly known as “beano” or “bingo” for the entertainment of the public within the State unless that person, firm, association, or corporation has obtained a license from the Chief of the State Police.”
Other restrictions include the hours of game play (no bingo on Christmas, or between the hours of midnight and 7 am, or on Sundays until after 11 am).
In terms of penalties for violators the law states that, “a person who violates this section commits a civil violation for which a fine of not more than $1,000 may be adjudged.”
Information about license applications and tournaments can be found here [J].
Maine bingo laws also state (under bingo section 313-A) that groups of, “individuals at least 90% of whom are 62 years of age or older, that operate ‘beano’ or ‘bingo’ games for their own entertainment and recreation and not for profit, are exempt from application and licensing provisions of this chapter.”
Maine is one of the few states in the US which mentions the legality of social gambling (such as poker site locations held at home) in its legislation. The state law (Section 952-4) defines social gambling as, “gambling, or a contest of chance, in which the only participants are players and from which no person or organization receives or becomes entitled to receive something of value or any profit whatsoever, directly or indirectly, other than as a player, from any source, fee, remuneration connected with said gambling, or such activity as arrangements or facilitation of the game, or permitting the use of premises, or selling or supplying for profit refreshments, food, drink service or entertainment to participants, players or spectators.”
As such, as long as gamblers follow the rules set out in Section 952 above, they are exempt from gambling restrictions and are entitled to play in a social environment.
Author: Joseph Falchetti (twitter)
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