Maine Senate Kills Indian Casino Bill

The Maine Senate has killed a bill previously passed by the House that would have allowed an Indian casino in a state where two commercial casinos currently operate. Rep. Henry John Bear (l.), the last tribal representative in the legislature, says the bill was meant to help the poorest region and people in the state.

The Maine Senate last week rejected a bill earlier passed by the House that would have authorized a tribal casino in the northern part of the state.

The bill would have authorized a casino that would benefit Maine’s four Indian tribes in either Washington or Aroostook County.

Representatives of the tribes said they felt they were excluded from the process and that their original propels was altered.

The bill passed by the House on an 83-62 vote would have established a commission that would have put out a request for bids to build and operate a casino. It would have required a $5 million licensing fee and would have taxed slot revenues at 46 percent and table games at 16 percent.

The Senate rejected the bill first, 20-15 and then 18-17. It also rejected a bill that would have authorized a competitive bidding process for a tribal casino.

Opponents of the bills said they would hurt the state’s existing casinos in Bangor and Oxford.

Last year the state paid for the White Sands study that looked at the Maine gaming market and concluded that it would support a large casino in the south and a smaller one in the north. Opponents were skeptical because a gaming company did the study.

Rep. Louis Luchini, chairman of the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, opposed the bill that would authorize a casino in the south because it significantly altered the taxation schedule recommended by White Sands.

Governor Paul LePage has in the past opposed any new casino in the southern part of the state due to its possible effect on existing casinos.

Both of the state’s casinos were authorized by referendum. One purpose for involving the legislature was to take control of future casino placement.

Rep. Henry John Bear of the Houlton Band of Maliseets commented after the Senate vote, “I’ll be hopeful that maybe we can work an amendment and that we can find something that’s acceptable to the Senate.” Bear is the only remaining tribal representative in the legislature. The Passamaquoddy and Penobscot tribes removed their representatives earlier this year due to disputes over fishing rights and other non-gaming issues.

Over the years the tribes have unsuccessful tried at the ballot box and in the capitol to win over enough votes to allow for one or more tribal casinos. The tribes had been optimistic this year that the White Sands report created an opening for them.

Bear had said of the bill, “This bill is not a bill that has come out of this legislative session. This is a bill that has been in the works for decades in a continued effort to try to create jobs in a region that’s the poorest of the state.”