For the past 40 years, the tribes in Maine have been governed by the 1980 Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act. Under the Act, indigenous tribes in the state are treated differently from other Native American tribes in the country. However, the tribal representatives feel that the act is totally unfair as it has totally restricted their ability to advance their communities’ economic position by limiting their capacity to run tribal casinos.
Instead, the Act allows private corporations to run the only two casinos in the state, denying them the chance to earn the hundreds of millions of dollars the corporations are earning. According to news details that were gathered and presented by one reporter of CalvinAyre.com this tribe’s cries may have been heard and are being acted upon as the lawmakers, and they seem to consider altering the act.
For the second day, on Wednesday, February 19, the state lawmakers listened to 22 proposals. And that the intention in the bids is primarily to influence the alteration of the 40 year old agreement between Penobscot Nation and the state, the Indians of Houlton Band of Maliseet and the Passamaquoddy Tribe.
In particular, the tribal representatives insist that they are not interested in owning casinos. Their take is that they are fighting for the chance to self-govern themselves, and point out that this in particular should include owning gaming venues, which the federal law already allows or unconditionally permits.
Therefore, they are proposing that they receive more authority when it comes to issues such as taxation, use of land and other natural resources and prosecutions when on the wrong side of the law. However, their proposals have not been well received by all concerned parties in the gaming industry. Some feel alteration of the act would lead to implementation of tougher environmental laws. In its part, Hollywood Casino in Bangor feels that any changes would cause a decline in casino revenues.
Janet Mills, Maine Governor is also not for the idea to tamper with the current regulations. She feels it would lead several parties heading to court to oppose the move. The lawmakers have not reached a conclusion yet and continue to listen to more testimonies on the issue for the next several days.
This is not the first time the tribes are trying to get permission, either from the state or from the voters, to operate casinos in the state. In 2017, a referendum on whether the Passamaquoddy Tribe should be allowed to build a casino was held. Voters rejected the proposal by an overwhelming 83%. In March 2019, a bill was proposed to allow the tribe build a casino. Commercial casino owner could hear none of it. The bill was therefore not approved.
The tribes seem to be determined to get what they want. The Houlton Band of the Maliseet Indians is said to have attempted to take matters to the Maine Supreme Court, which has refused to listen to the case.