The official responsible for leading Maine's efforts in implementing sports betting, Milt Champion, has been placed on paid leave after tweets containing offensive language and racist undertones came to light.
The decision to suspend Maine's Gambling Control Unit Executive Director was announced by the Maine Department of Public Safety, which oversees the Gambling Control Unit, shortly after the Press Herald inquired about the tweets.
Champion had posted these tweets over the past two and a half weeks from his personal Twitter account, which was followed by the official account of the Maine Gambling Control Unit. One of the tweets, dated May 6, expressed frustration over the term "ladies" being considered unprofessional, suggesting the use of "Bitches" instead.
In another tweet on May 14, Champion commented on a video featuring members of the white nationalist group Patriot Front, stating: "At least they are not burning down cities and looting stores." The Anti-Defamation League classifies Patriot Front as a "white supremacist group" and highlights its role in distributing white supremacist propaganda in the United States since 2019.
Champion has not responded to local media's multiple attempts to contact him regarding the tweets. Lt. Thomas Pickering of the Maine State Police confirmed that Champion has been on paid administrative leave since Wednesday, the same day he spoke with the Press Herald to provide an update on the progress of sports gambling implementation in Maine.
"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," Pickering wrote in an email to the Press Herald. The Gambling Control Unit also released a second draft of rules pertaining to sports gambling operations on that day.
Champion has held his position as the executive director of the Gambling Control Unit since November 2016. With 36 years of experience in the gambling industry, including 20 years in casinos and 16 years as a regulator, Champion has played a key role in Maine's endeavor to legalize and implement sports gambling since the law passed in May 2022.
He has led a team of two employees in drafting the regulations for sports betting in the state, with the second draft of rules released just last week. Additionally, Champion is responsible for approving agreements with gambling providers and granting betting licenses.
While operators including the four Maine tribes in the online sports betting market, and off-track betting locations and casinos in the retail market, are free to pursue business with providers of their choosing, the executive director of the Gambling Control Unit has the say over whether those deals become official.
Providers can receive up to 40% of the generated revenue from operators, but deals involving percentages between 30% and 40% require the approval of the executive director.