Maine’s Largest Tribes Oppose York County Casino

Posted on: November 5, 2017, 10:00h. 

Last updated on: November 4, 2017, 04:39h.

The two largest Native American tribes in Maine have come out against the proposed York County casino, pitting them against at least one other tribe in the state that is supporting the Question 1 referendum on next week’s ballot.

Maine casino referendum
Two Maine tribes fear that a new casino could undermine their existing revenue-sharing agreement with the Oxford Casino. (AP/Robert F. Bukaty)

In a joint statement issued Thursday, the chiefs of the Penobscot Nation and two Passamaquoddy communities stated in no uncertain terms that they opposed the referendum, in large part because it could undermine existing revenue sharing agreements that benefit their tribes.

“If approved, Question 1 would stand to directly injury the Passamaquoddy Tribe and the Penobscot Nation by significantly reducing financial support that the tribes currently receive under a voter-approved revenue sharing agreement with Oxford Casino,” the statement read.

A new facility might not just draw revenues away from the Oxford venue, but could actual cancel the agreement entirely were it to provide any benefit to the tribes.

“As soon as we have a facility of our own or if we start receiving revenue from another gaming source, then we no longer get the Oxford money,” said Passamaquoddy Tribal Ambassador Matthew Dana II.

Micmacs Support Question 1

That stance puts the tribes in opposition to the Aroostook Band of Micmacs, the only one of Maine’s four federally recognized Indian tribes that has come out in favor of Question 1. The tribe’s support came following negotiations with casino developer Shawn Scott, who would be building the new facility if it were approved.

Under the terms of that agreement, the Aroostook Band of Micmacs would not receive revenues directly from a York County casino. However, Scott pledged to “create new non-gaming economic development opportunities for the tribe.”

The tribe also pointed out that the Oxford Casino deal only benefits two of the tribes in the state, with the Passamaquoddy and Penobscot tribes sharing nearly $2.6 million last year thanks to the agreement. In contrast, the Micmacs say, Question 1 could benefit all parties in the state.

“Question 1 afford us an opportunity to work with our fellow tribes and elected leaders to ensure that all Native American tribes in Main can benefit from the gaming and entertainment industry,” Aroostook Band tribal chief Edward Peter-Paul wrote in a statement last month.

Officials Dispute Claim that Casino Would Benefit Tribes

But other tribal officials dispute the idea that the new casino would include benefits for all Native Americans in the state.

“[Campaign literature] made it look to be like it might benefit us in some way,” said Penobscot Nation Tribal Ambassador Maulian Dana. “It definitely wouldn’t.”

According to campaign finance reports filed last week, more than $8.3 million has been spent on the campaign to pass Question 1, mostly by two committees funded largely by Shawn Scott himself. Meanwhile, opponents have spent over $600,000 in an effort to stop the casino, with that money coming almost entirely from the Oxford Casino.

Maine voters will determine the fate of the referendum on Tuesday, November 7.