Featured in this article:
- Maine Currently Prohibits Tribal Casinos
- New Bill Would Require a Renegotiated Tribal Compact
- New Tribal Casinos May Open Further Gambling Options
The great state of Maine currently has two land-based commercial casinos. However, a settlement agreement from 1980 exempted Maine from federal Indian gaming laws. This meant that when the 1988 federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act passed, Maine tribes still could not operate casinos.
Now, in 2021, those tribes and their legislative partners seek to change this imbalance.
Maine Casinos Bill Would Begin New Negotiations
Maine state representative Ben Collings (D-Portland) introduced LD 554 for a first hearing on Friday, April 2. The bill’s titled “An Act To Create Gaming Equity and Fairness for the Native American Tribes in Maine.” The name quite clearly strikes at the perceived inequity of allowing commercial casinos but banning tribal ones.
There are three federally recognized Native American tribes in Maine. These are: the Passamaquoddy, Penobscot Nation, and Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians. While LD 554 does not require the tribes build casinos, it does force the state government to negotiate. A new compact between the state and the tribes could pave the way to expanded casino gaming in Maine.
Native American Tribes Support Maine Casino Bill
In echoes of long-ago history, Maine Native American Tribes claim prior agreements are being used against them. Maulian Dana, the ambassador for the Penobscot Nation to the Maine government said it succinctly. “We did not sign away our status when we signed the 1980 land claims act.”
The tribes are framing the issues around LD 554 by focusing on sovereignty and fairness, not casinos. According to their spokespeople, LD 554 would give Maine tribes the same rights as Native Americans in other states.
Through negotiations of a new compact, tribes could explain how casinos are a win-win for the state. Like Connecticut’s newly revised tribal compact, gambling can bring revenues, jobs, and progress to the state.
Commercial Operators Lobbying Against Bill
Wary of oversaturation in a small market, Maine’s two commercial casino companies do not support LD 554. Oxford Casino in the southern part of the state and Hollywood Casino Bangor are both operated by large corporations. Neither of these entities want further competition in the Maine gambling market. It remains to be seen how their powerful lobbyists will affect the status of LD 554.
Another unknown is how this issue will be received by Democratic Maine Governor Janet Mills. Just last year, the governor vetoed legislation that would have brought regulated sports betting to Vacationland. Other prior attempts to allow casinos on tribal land in Maine have met resistance.
Renegotiating the tribal compact would allow Maine to discuss further gambling expansions beyond casinos. It is possible lost revenue due to the pandemic has changed Gov. Mills’ mind regarding sports betting.
Mainers looking to gamble from the comfort of their homes should keep up on the top online casinos. You can also view our guides on the best places to win real money sports wagers or poker tournaments.