Maine Official Warns of Regulated iGaming’s Potential Harms

As Maine’s Legislature rejected the notion of introducing regulated iGaming to the state, Steve Silver, chair of the Maine Gambling Control Board, voiced concerns regarding the potential negative impacts if the move had succeeded. He highlighted examples from other jurisdictions, urging lawmakers to consider whether their decisions can have unintended consequences.

Problem Gambling Is an Ongoing Concern

In a recent statement for local news outlet The Portland Press Herald, Silver highlighted the dangers of legalizing internet gaming, emphasizing its highly addictive nature and the disproportionate harm it could inflict on young Mainers. He cautioned against bills like the recently rejected L.D. 1777, which aimed to introduce iGaming while bolstering economic opportunities for Wabanaki Nations.

Citing alarming trends observed in states where mobile sports betting and internet gaming have been legalized, such as Connecticut, Silver pointed to a surge in calls to problem gambling hotlines. He emphasizes the potential for further exacerbation of gambling addiction if iGaming took off in Maine and warned that online wagering could be especially dangerous to the state’s youth.

A study out of the United Kingdom found that internet gaming is ten times more addictive than other forms of gambling. Those most susceptible to internet gaming addiction are younger individuals.

Steve Silver, Maine Gambling Control Board chair

Expressing reservations about the concentration of authority for internet gaming regulation in the hands of the director of the Gambling Control Unit, Silver advocated for greater oversight by the Gambling Control Board to ensure transparency and accountability. Such an approach would ensure all stakeholders are treated equally and are fully responsible for their actions.

An iGaming Monopoly Could Cause Economic Damage

Another point of contention for Silver was L.D. 1777 explicitly excluding the state’s existing casinos from offering internet gaming, effectively granting a gambling monopoly to the Wabanaki Nations. He argued that this move would undermine the contributions of Maine’s casinos as major employers and taxpayers and possibly result in significant revenue losses for various state beneficiaries.

Highlighting the absence of job creation and infrastructure development associated with legalizing internet gaming, Silver contended that allowing only select entities to participate would lead to job cuts and further economic challenges for the state. While some studies have shown that iGaming can bolster the retail business, these results may not apply in the case of a monopoly.

Legalizing internet gaming does not create any new jobs in Maine. (Not) permitting Oxford and Hollywood casinos to participate will lead to job cuts.

Steve Silver, Maine Gambling Control Board chair

In conclusion, Silver urged lawmakers and Governor Mills to exercise caution and thoroughly evaluate the potential consequences of legalizing internet gaming before considering another iGaming bill. He stressed the need for comprehensive scrutiny and public engagement to safeguard the interests of Maine’s residents and economy and to ensure online gambling will be a boon rather than a hindrance.

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