The Maine Gambling Control Unit remains focused on launching sports wagering in Maine by late November despite the uncertainty surrounding the unit after its director was placed on administrative leave, a spokesman for the agency said.

Milt Champion

Milt Champion, the Gambling Control Unit’s executive director, was placed on paid leave last week in the wake of tweets he recently posted containing sexist language and racist connotations. Recently hired Deputy Director Matthew Motti will be handling Champion’s responsibilities in his absence.

In an interview with the Press Herald last week, Champion was optimistic that sports betting in Maine could go live in November. Champion and two other employees in the Gambling Control Unit have written and revised rules that will govern sports betting in Maine, a laborious process that has taken the better part of a year. His absence raises uncertainty about the agency’s immediate efforts to ready the state for sports betting.

“I think that’s a good question, and one that a lot of people are asking,” said Steven Silver, the head of the state’s Gambling Control Board. “It’s really unknown right now. The Legislature directed all of the oversight for sports betting to go through the unit, rather than the board, so it’s up to the unit.”

The decision to put Champion, 66, on leave was made last Wednesday. The Maine Department of Public Safety, which oversees the Gambling Control Unit, announced Monday that the state’s Bureau of Human Resources is conducting a review of Champion.

Lt. Thomas Pickering of the Maine State Police, an agency within the Department of Public Safety, said that Motti, the deputy director, will assume Champion’s responsibilities while he is on leave. Motti was hired last month, Silver said, and is a newcomer to Maine.


“The Gambling Control Unit remains committed to implementing the law in a manner consistent with the November time frame previously publicly discussed,” Pickering wrote in an email.

Motti previously worked in Florida, where according to his LinkedIn page he was the lead technician for the state’s Seminole tribe. According to Silver, Motti was hired to oversee sports betting and daily fantasy; he joins a sports betting team that since last fall has included sports wagering inspector Kyle Bourget and auditor Alex Joutov.

Gov. Janet Mills signed sports betting into law on May 2, 2022. Since then, Champion and his office have drawn up rules for sports wagering in the state, the first draft of which was released in January and received 581 comments from the public and gambling industry. Champion’s office released a second draft last Wednesday, which will be subject to comments until June 16. If the comments aren’t substantial enough to require a third draft, they will head to the Office of the Maine Attorney General, which has up to 120 days to review and approve the rules.

In an interview last Wednesday, Champion expressed confidence that the rules were sound enough to pass on to the attorney general, and optimism that the state could go live with sports betting by Thanksgiving. Asked if that timeline could be altered by Champion’s unavailability, Silver said it depends on how the comments go.

“Nothing’s going to happen until those comments are received, and obviously it depends on the volume and substance of those comments,” he said. “I think it’s too early to tell if there will be a delay or not.”

The Gambling Control Unit has yet to receive license applications from sports betting providers such as Caesars Sportsbook, which recently struck a partnership with three of Maine’s indigenous tribes to operate their online betting portals. Those applications will require a lengthy vetting process, Champion had warned, and he feared that many will be filed shortly before wagering is scheduled to go live in Maine.


Despite the agency’s small staff, Silver expressed confidence in the Gambling Control Unit’s ability to hold up in the director’s absence.


“There’s dedicated staff that has a lot of experience, whether it’s the auditors, the inspector supervisor, the deputy director,” he said. “They’re more than capable of conducting the background investigations and making sure that any applicants are suitable for a license in Maine.”

A spokesperson for Mills said Tuesday that the governor would not be available for an interview regarding Champion’s tweets.

“The governor has a responsibility to maintain the integrity of the independent investigation being conducted by the Bureau of Human Resources by allowing it to proceed unimpeded and unbiased by any comments from her,” said Scott Ogden, Mills’ deputy chief of staff for communications. “To that end, she will be withholding comment for the time being.”

Efforts to contact Champion on Tuesday were unsuccessful. A woman who answered a phone believed to belong to his wife hung up when a reporter identified himself.


Champion took over as the executive director in November 2016, hired by the commissioner of the Department of Public Safety with input from the Gambling Control Board. Champion came from Florida, where he had worked in several positions in the gaming industry, including a stint as the head of the state’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering before resigning in 2011.

His is the latest incident of a high-ranking state official being placed on leave after making controversial posts on social media. In January 2021, Maine Capitol Police Chief Russell Gauvin was put on paid leave after making posts on Facebook that disputing the results of the 2020 presidential election and criticizing COVID-19 mask mandates. He resigned three months later, receiving more than $67,000 in severance pay.

The Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee handles gambling legislation in Maine. Rep. Laura Supica, D-Bangor, is the co-chair of the committee, and she told News Center Maine that she agreed with how the Department of Public Safety handled Champion after the tweets.

“I personally support the decision to have a leave of absence,” she said. “I think the comments that were made were sexist and racist, and not representative of our values. So, I think that that was the correct decision to make.”

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