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Good bet? Future of legal sports gambling in Maine

Sports betting could become legal in Maine after U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law (CBS photo)

AUGUSTA (WGME) - Sports gambling is a $150 billion a year industry with most of that money being bet illegally, according to the American Gaming Association, but the Supreme Court is giving the green-light for states to decide if they want to legalize it.

Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia have legalized it, but so far Maine has not.

New legislation is expected in Maine next year which could change that.

As the Patriots practice for the season ahead, it's a good bet some fans are hoping the team's success on the field will end with big payouts off the field.

"I think betting would help grow the sport; not just football, all sports," said sports fan Will Winslow, who lives in Portland.

In May the U.S. Supreme Court opened the door to legal betting on sports.

It struck down a 1992 federal law that made sports gambling illegal in every place but Nevada.

Writing for the court, Justice Samuel Alito said "Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each state is free to act on its own."

Many sports fans we talked with at Buffalo Wild Wings during a recent football game said they would like to try sports betting if it was legal in Maine.

The case over sports betting started in New Jersey, which fought to legalize it.

After the win at the supreme court, Garden State Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill in June making it legal.

"It's an old adage that you bet with head not with your heart. So for the past seven years our heads and hearts were in alignment as we fought to overturn an unlawful and unfair federal law," Murphy said in June.

The NCAA and major league sports wanted the law upheld.

They said it protected the integrity of the game.

Even though the Supreme Court case paved the way for all 50 states to offer legal sports betting, for now Maine is watching from the sidelines.

"I don't think Maine was really looking at it up to that point," said Milt Champion, Executive Director of Maine's Gambling Control Board.

Champion is watching as states change laws and setup rules to be part of the sports betting industry and get a share of the tax revenue.

The American Gaming Association says sports wagers could be worth more than $40 billion in revenue to states that allow them.

"Everyone talks about big numbers, but i'll wait and see how it pans out," Champion said.

Champion expects to see several bills in the next legislative session related to how and where bets could be placed.

"Do you do it through brick and mortar? Current casinos? Do you allow it online? So we'll just see how the legislature does with it in Maine and whichever direction they take, I'll be ready," he said.

For now some sports fans say they're happy just grabbing a beer and watching the game.

"I don't think I would want to try it. I don't want to put my money into something that's left up to chance; I want to put my own money into my own life," football fan Josh Moreshead said.

If lawmakers move forward with sports betting, the Gambling Control Board estimates it would take six months to year a to go through the rule making and licensing process.

The state's two casinos don't have any comment at this point about hosting sports betting at their facilities.

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