Although Maine is probably known more for its clam chowder, crisp falls and scenic outlooks than it is for its casino gambling scene, doesn’t mean the Pine Tree State’s residents don’t relish the idea of getting out of the cold and mixing it up on the green felt.
Poker has been a longtime passion of Maine’s residents, but it wasn’t until recently that they were given the opportunity to check, call and raise their way to profit amid the hustle and bustle of a casino environment. With the change, Maine’s casino revenues have flourished, leading some to believe that if state regulated online poker catches fire on the East Coast, Maine would eventually hop on board.
Can Players from Maine Play Real-Money Online Poker?
While there appears to be no one law that specifically bans residents of Maine from playing poker online, they’re choices are limited to unregulated, U.S. facing sites. Compare this to European countries, where residents can pick from a myriad of heavily trafficked poker sites.
Is Online Poker Legal in Maine?
Without the assistance of a legal professional versed in such matters, it’s impossible to truly ascertain the legality of online poker in most U.S. states, and Maine is certainly no exception. Instead, let the following sections act as a roadmap to help you make a more informed decision.
Maine’s gambling statutes are horribly outdated and as such, make no mention of online wagering. What do we have is a fairly broad definition of what it means to gamble:
A person engages in gambling if he stakes or risks something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event not under his control of influence, upon an agreement or understanding that he or someone else will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome. Section 952.4
To determine whether poker is considering a game of chance, we refer to the definition of “Contest of Chance:”
Chance enters as an element that influences the outcome in a manner that cannot be eliminated through the application of skill. Section 952.3C
While the chance aspect of poker can be partially negated by skill, one card can be the difference between a full double-up or a bust. This would imply that poker is considered a game of chance in Maine.
Further reinforcing this theory is the caveat:
…an event the result of which is determined by chance includes but is not limited to a shuffle of a deck or decks of cards…
If doubt remained as to whether or not poker is considered a gambling game, the aforementioned clause dispels any ambiguity.
The penalty for gambling as a player is not specified in the statutes, indicating that those merely participating in an illicit game, whether live or online, would be exempt from persecution. The same leniency does not apply to operators who “advance gambling activity.” Those who “materially” aid from gambling are subject to a Class D crime – punishable by one to three years in prison.
In so long as the house doesn’t receive
any profit whatsoever, playing in a home poker game seems to be in line with the law.
Maine Gambling History
Gambling played an integral role in pre-Colonial Maine, as it did in many of what would eventually become the original 13 states. As far back as the 1700s, lotteries and raffles were held throughout the state; a practice that would continue well into the 1800s.
But it wouldn’t be until 1950 that horseracing would become the first gambling activity to be legalized in the state. Shortly thereafter Scarborough Downs would open near the state’s most populated city of Portland. Despite its more recent struggles , the track remains one of most beloved attractions in the state.
Maine was one of the early pioneers of the modern lottery, with lawmakers first legalizing it in 1973. Twelve years later, it would be expanded into a multi-state operation.
More recently, the old Bangor horseracing facility was converted into the Hollywood Casino Hotel & Raceway (2004). By 2012, both it and the Oxford Fairgrounds introduced table games, although only the Hollywood features a live poker room .
Regulated Gambling Options in Maine
Most forms of gambling including commercial casinos, limited charitable gambling, pari-mutuel wagering, high stakes bingo and multiple forms of the lottery are legal in Maine.
However, due to the state’s sparse population, lawmakers haven’t felt a pressing need to expand the state’s casinos market, evidenced by their recent hesitance to introduce more racinos and casinos .
An online lottery amendment might stand a better chance of passage, although as of yet, legislators have not made a concerted effort to push a bill.
The Future of Regulated Online Gambling in Maine
Maine will likely refrain from entering the iGaming market until at least a fair portion of the Northeast opts in, and even then, legislature would likely only support a poker only bill.
Overall, Maine’s lawmakers appear ambivalent towards gambling expansion. That being said, the state’s gambling proponents have scored several great victories in the past decade, and would likely not be opposed to regulating online poker if they could justify its benefits.
In other words, an interstate compact will likely have to be in place before Maine enters the mix. Otherwise, it’s paltry, spaced out population of 1.3 million would hardly be big enough to support a thriving community.
Until then, Maine’s casino economy should continue to grow at a healthy, albeit incremental, rate.