Maine official in charge of sports betting placed on leave after offensive tweets

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May 22—The official leading Maine's adoption of sports betting was placed on leave last week, a decision announced after the Press Herald inquired about tweets he had recently posted that contained sexist language and racist connotations.

Milt Champion, executive director of the Gambling Control Unit, was placed on paid leave Wednesday. The Maine Department of Public Safety, which oversees the gambling unit, announced Champion's suspension just hours after a reporter began asking about the tweets.

Champion posted the tweets over the past two and a half weeks from his personal account, which the Maine Gambling Control Unit's Twitter account follows.

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 on May 14, Champion replied to a video showing demonstrators with Patriot Front, a white nationalist group, marching in Washington, D.C. He wrote: "At least they are not burning down cities and looting stores." The Anti-Defamation League describes Patriot Front as a "white supremacist group" and says it is "responsible for the vast majority of white supremacist propaganda distributed in the United States" since 2019.

Champion did not return multiple calls asking about the tweets.

"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 Police wrote in an email to the Press Herald. "Given that this is an ongoing, personnel-related matter, the department is unable to comment further."

Pickering said that Champion has been on leave since Wednesday, the same day Champion spoke to the Press Herald for an update on Maine's progress with instituting sports gambling. His office also released a second draft of rules regarding the operation of sports gambling that morning.

Steven Silver, the chair of Maine's Gambling Control Board, was reached by phone Monday but did not want to speak about Champion's tweets. An email to Gov. Janet Mills' office asking for her reaction to the tweets was not returned Monday.

Champion has been in his position since November 2016, and earned a salary of $94,851.60 in 2022, according to state records. He's been in the gambling industry for 36 years, working 20 in casinos and 16 as a regulator, according to an interview with GamblingIndustryNews.com.

Champion has been the key figure in Maine's push to add sports gambling since the state passed the law legalizing it in May 2022. He's led a staff of two workers to draft rules governing sports betting in the state, the second draft of which was released last Wednesday. He also is in charge of approving deals with gambling providers and awarding betting licenses.

While operators, such as the four Maine tribes in the online sports gambling market and off-track betting locations and casinos in the retail market, are free to pursue business with providers of their choosing, three of the tribes — the Penobscot, Maliseet and Micmacs — already have come to a preliminary deal with Caesars Sportsbook. The executive director of the Gambling Control Unit has the say over whether those deals become official, based on the revenue splits in the contract. Providers can receive up to 40% of the revenue they generate with an operator, though deals awarding them between 30% and 40% need the executive director's approval.