In NFLbets’ world centered on football and betting, Maine is kind of a sad place. Folks don’t seem to want casinos and betting games in their state, consistently killing any such possibility in referendum after referendum in the 21st century.
On the gridiron, well … as one of just two states (low-population Vermont is the other) in either New England or the northeast without an Ivy League team, the growth of football in Maine was bound to be slightly stunted. And so it is…
Betting in Maine
The attitude of Maine’s citizens (surely the adjective form isn’t “Maniacs”) toward betting games has traditionally been even more puritanical than those of the Vermonters and Hampshirites. As in the other New England states and others entering the union prior to the Civil War, betting games were not specifically addressed in the initial state constitution. The lottery craze which swamped much of the U.S. in the mid-19th century came to Maine as well, but not on as massive a scale as in, for example, the southern states.
Pari-mutuel betting was legalized in Maine in 1950 – as opposed to the majority of states, which passed such legislation in the 30s – but, to be fair, the state’s first horse racetrack was erected in that year. For three decades of so, the Scarborough Downs did spectacular business and made for a great tourist draw, as southerly neighbors New Hampshire and Vermont were without horse racing, live or simulcast.
And Maine was slightly ahead of the curve in the lottery game, first establishing the Maine State Lottery in 1973. The results of the voting on this referendum showed over 60% yea, an odd result historically. The first winner in June ’74 pocketed a massive … $20! (Hey, that’s, like, $106 in 2018 money!) In the same year the state lottery commission was established, the Native American-run Penobscot Bingo Hall opened, making it one of the very first Native American-run gaming houses – and it’s still open today.
However, due to explicit laws against betting games, the Penobscot hall could not be expanded into a full-on casino, as happened on many reservation-based bingo halls once the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act passed in 1988. Instead, the newly-established Maine Gambling Control Board in 2004 ruled for the licensure of a single casino operation – but with no table games or poker – in the state.
Based on this ruling and much backlash from the public, the Hollywood Casino Hotel and Raceway opened in 2010.
Perhaps based on the excitement of the shiny new potential tourist draw, a state referendum in 2010 allowed for the opening of the Oxford Casino squeaked by on 51% yea vote. Such success at the ballot box wouldn’t be seen by the pro-betting crowd for the rest of the decade.
In November 2011, voters defeated a proposition to create two racinos, i.e. horse tracks which also host slot machines, by a 56%-44% margin; another proposition to establish a casino in Lewiston was killed off, 64%-36%. The following year, with well more voters casting ballots thanks to the general election, expansion of the casino market was voted down 60%-40%. You get the idea.
The law has essentially turned a blind eye to daily fantasy sports betting in Maine, and current legislative moves are advancing toward full legalization and regulation of these games. Legislation to do so was introduced toward the end of the 2017 legislative session, but no news as of this writing in early 2018.
Football in Maine
The state’s one top-division college football team is the University of Maine Black Bears, so NFLbets can (and Maine football history does) start with them.
U. Maine first fielded a team in 1892 but, due to the factors listed above, were essentially doomed to obscurity (and play in the “Maine Intercollegiate Athletic Association”) from the late 18th century straight through World War II and the post-war rejiggering of NCAA conferences. The Maine Association consisted of four schools located in the state, and Maine played regularly against Bates, Bowdoin and Colby. The conference was formed in 1893 and Maine earned its first title in 1901. From ’01 to ’45, the Brown Bears won and shared in 20 of a possible 41 conference titles.
In 1947, Maine joined the Yankee Conference, established as division I-A. The team was later moved to division I-AA ball in the Atlantic 10 Conference and later the FCS in the Colonial Athletic Association from ’97. In 1965, the Black Bears ascended to their greatest height, appearing in the Tangerine Bowl, in which they were shellacked by the East Carolina Pirates, 31-0. In FCS tournaments since ’97, the Black Bears have not advanced past the quarterfinals.
The university has produced 23 NFL players going into the 2018 season, with most notable probably offensive linemen Mike Flynn and Justin Strzelczyk. For Maine-born players, we’ll nominate DE/LB Al Harris, who played with the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles through the 1980s, as the top such.
And you bet (so to speak) that Maine has some nice second-level media markets to get some folks to start up indoor football teams. Catch the Maine Mammoths (great name) at Portland’s Cross Insurance Arena during the 2018 National Arena League season – while you can…
Betting on football in Maine
Apparently lots of folks are playing daily fantasy sports games, and Maine law enforcement is happily laissez-faire on busting anyone involved with this sort of football betting. Legalized bettering on football in Maine may take some time to come to fruition, but it’s mostly in the hands of the voters. NFLbets wouldn’t count on any full-scale decriminalization of betting on football in Maine any time too soon, regardless of the recent rulings against PASPA by the U.S. Supreme Court.
But again: Who knows…?