Maine Poker Laws & Gambling Bills

There is no particular statute in the Maine Code addressing the legality or illegality of online poker. Maine was one of the first states to legalize a state lottery, doing so in 1973 and launching it in 1974. Bingo and raffles for charity are also legal.

As with many states on the East Coast of the United States, off-track betting is allowed. Further, voters approved slot machines for those racetracks in 2004. The first racino then opened in 2005 in Bangor, and another one opened in 2012 in Oxford County. The two facilities are run by out-of-state corporations.

There are several Native American tribes located in Maine, and they have tried to work with the state government to open casinos. According to the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, tribes can create compacts that allow them to open some form of gambling establishments on their reservations. The Passamaquoddy Tribe was the one most determined to make it happen, but when they successfully worked with legislators to devise a bill in 2014, it never made it to a vote.

Latest Developments Regarding Online Poker in Maine

There have been no efforts to legalize and regulate online poker in Maine.

The closest the state came to new gambling laws was in August 2017 when the legislature passed a law to legalize daily fantasy sports. Maine became the 15thstate to do so, despite the opposition of Governor Paul LePage. The bill did classify DFS as a game of skill, which removes it from the traditional crime statutes and penalties imposed for gambling offenses.

Even with that development that puts the state in line with neighboring Delaware, Maine does not seem to have an interest in following Delaware into the realm of legalized online poker or casino games.

Title 17 of the Maine Revised Statutes allocates Chapter 62 to games of chance.

A game of chance is defined in the statute as

“a game, contest, scheme or device in which a person stakes or risks something of value for the opportunity to win something of value; the rules of operation or play require an event the result of which is determined by chance, outside the control of the contestant or participant; and chance enters as an element that influences the outcome in a manner than cannot be eliminated through the application of skill.”

It goes on to specify that this includes a shuffle of a deck of cards and the random drawing of a card, but then it states, “For purposes of this chapter, beano, bingo and table games … are not games of chance.” So, poker is not legally a game of chance.

Even so, the chapter goes on to note the requirement of a license to operate games of chance and lists “games of cards” as ones that require a fee for an operational license. Said fee is $30 per year

“when the organization charges no more than a $10 daily entry fee for participation in the games of cards and when no money or valuable thing other than the $10 daily entry fee is gambled by any person in connection with the game of cards.”

It also discusses limits for card games, such as maximum bets per hand or per deal of $1.

Chapter 39 of Title 8 is singled out for Unlawful Gambling information. It mainly addresses illegal raffles, home-based bookmaking, and unlawful lotteries or gambling schemes. Nowhere does it mention online poker or any type of online gambling.

The only pertinent piece of information in that section is the definition of unlawful, which is anything

“not expressly authorized by statute. An activity not expressly authorized by statute does not cease to be unlawful solely because it is authorized under federal law or the laws of another state or jurisdiction.”

There may be more information released in 2018, as the legislature ruled in 2017 that the administration and enforcement of all laws governing fantasy sports contests, beano, and games of chance would be given to the Director of the Gambling Control Unit. A review was taking place to “initiate or continue to protect state revenues and maintain the public’s confidence in the integrity of gaming activity.”

Disclaimer:  This is not written by an attorney and is not or should not be construed as legal advice. Please consult an attorney for help interpreting these laws as they pertain to any given situation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question:  Can poker players in Maine compete in online cash games and tournaments?

Answer:  Yes. There are a number of operators, like Bovada and BetOnline, that cater to players in Maine. These online poker sites do not fear any legal ramifications for offering online poker in the state, as there is no mention of online poker in its crime statutes.

Question:  Why didn’t the state pass online gambling with DFS?

Answer:  Many legislators are not familiar with online poker and the benefits for the state through legalization. DFS, however, is something that has become increasingly popular in the past decade and is not viewed as gambling, while poker is still seen through an antiquated lens.

Question:  Can I use credit cards to deposit online from Maine?

Answer:  Most likely. All of the sites that are open to Maine players do accept credit card deposits, though individual card-issuing banks may stop those transactions. If so, there are other methods available by which to deposit, including bitcoin, which also offers withdrawals.

Gaming Resources in Maine