Maine Bill to Legalize Tribal Gaming Receives Hearing But Disillusioned Tribes are a No-Show

Posted on: April 11, 2017, 04:00h. 

Last updated on: April 11, 2017, 02:54h.

A bill that would authorize tribal casino gaming in Maine was scrutinized at a hearing of the state legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee on Monday, with its main sponsor, Representative Benjamin Collings (D-Portland), arguing that the tribes deserved a chance to create economic prosperity for themselves.

Maine Indian Casino Bill Hearing
The Hollywood Casino Hotel and Raceway, one of Maine’s two casinos, has voiced its opposition to Indian gaming in the state. (Image: Penn National Gaming)

Maine has, in the past been, accused of pursuing policies that force the state’s recognized tribes into a cycle of dependence rather than fostering economic self-sufficiency.

“For years the tribes have carried the burden of bringing gaming to the state and they’ve come close and have never got it,” argued Collings. “And right now out of state corporations have claimed a monopoly here in the state and I’m glad for the jobs they provide but there’s room in the market for tribal gaming.”

Maine currently has two casinos, Oxford Casino and the Hollywood Casino Hotel & Raceway Bangor, while the Passamaquoddy tribe operates a high-stakes bingo parlor in Indian Township.

Commercial Opposition

This bill would authorize the Department of Public Safety, Gambling Control Board to accept applications for casino licenses from the states four recognized tribes,which comprise five tribal communities: the Micmac, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy and Penobscot.

These licenses would permit the operation of table games and up to 1,500 slot machines at multiple facilities. It would also exempt the tribes from the state regulation that no casino may be built within 100 miles of an existing casino or slot machine facility. Twenty-five percent of net slot machine revenue and 16 percent of net table game revenue go the state general fund.

Chris Jackson, of the Hollywood Casino in Bangor, was not pleased. “Any expansion of gambling would erode our ability to continue to operate,” he said.

Fatigued by Failures

When lawmakers questioned why no representatives of the tribes were present at the meeting, they were told that they were “fatigued by past failures.”

After a similar legislative push in 2005, the tribes said they felt excluded from the process by state legislators who altered their original proposal in committee before rejecting it.

“They weren’t willing to come here and be part of the process,” Collings said. “Right now at least four of the five tribal communities are in a wait and see approach.

“They’re watching this they’re seeing if anything comes about and if it does they may be more engaged. As you know they’ve been here they’ve put a lot of time and resources so they’ve been to this dance more than once.”