Maine sports betting regulator on leave over social media posts
The Maine Gambling Control Unit last week put executive director Milton Champion on paid leave. The indefinite vacation was announced as the MGCU opened the second round of public comments on Maine sports betting regulations.
Difficulties with Champion's social media
The problematic social media posts originated from Champion's personal Twitter account, which has only 66 followers. He subsequently took down the tweets.
In a tweet on May 6, Champion expressed frustration about being told “ladies” was an unprofessional term for females, and suggested “bitches” would be more appropriate.
In another tweet eight days later, he commented on a video showing protestors marching in Washington, D.C. He wrote: “At least they are not burning down cities and looting stores.” Champion did not return multiple calls asking about the tweets. It is unclear what about the second tweet might be “offensive,” though several commenters labeled it so.
“I can confirm that Director Champion has been placed on paid administrative leave, pending a review that is being conducted by the Bureau of Human Resources,” Lt. Thomas Pickering of the Maine State Department of Public Safety, which oversees the unit. “Given that this is an ongoing, personnel-related matter, the department is unable to comment further.”
After several years of attempts to legalize sports betting, including one that Governor Janet Mills vetoed, the legislation was finally passed in the spring of 2022. In January, Champion published the first draft regulations and received about 500 comments.
Despite substantial criticism, Champion declared he would not change the regulations and would instead proceed cautiously. However, the director relaxed some of the advertising rules that once required him to approve all television advertisements.
Last Monday, the MGCU unveiled its second set of proposed rules. After June 16, stakeholders must submit comments, but after that, things are unclear, according to Steven Silver, chairman of the Maine Gambling Control Board.
Silver declined to comment explicitly on the situation with Champion, saying, "I'm hoping to have more clarity about the situation before comments are due. That will provide a clearer picture as to whether there will be any delays.”
With Champion on leave, the agency is now led by newly hired deputy director Matthew Motti.
Sportsbook ecosystem in Maine
According to the Sports Betting Alliance, Maine's revenue-sharing deal with the Indian tribes will prevent its member apps from operating there. FanDuel, DraftKings, Fanatics, and BetMGM are SBA members.
However, BetMGM has partnered with a number of outlets in the region for live sports betting. Casinos in the state are also run by Churchill Downs Inc. and Penn Entertainment, so it's probable that TwinSpires and Barstool will have physical locations.
“Maine official in charge of sports betting placed on leave after offensive tweets” , Drew Bonifant, pressherald.com, May 22, 2023.