Maine Governor Shoots Down Tribal Gaming in the State

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Native Indian tribes in Maine were just one signature away from being able to open casinos on their tribal land. They were most likely already preparing the chips and cards in anticipation of the final approval, but will now need to put their gear back in storage. Maine’s governor, Janet Mills, has vetoed a legislative effort that would have allowed the casinos, calling the bill “flawed.”

Back to Square One for Maine’s Tribal Gaming Efforts

Just two weeks ago, Maine lawmakers gave their approval for a bill that would have authorized state tribes to build casinos on their land. This is the same right enjoyed by all tribes across the country – except Maine. The state’s own tribal agreement, the 1980 Maine Indian Land Claim Settlement, was standing in the way, preventing the tribes from joining the other 570 federally recognized tribes in the US who are eligible to operate casinos. That agreement precedes federal law on tribal gaming by eight years.

Mills rejected the measure, despite overwhelming support from legislators and the state’s four tribes, on several shortcomings she believes need to be addressed. She justified her veto by explaining that the bill didn’t discuss properly the issue of taxes the tribes would pay and doesn’t provide enough detail on state-regulated health and safety protocols. Mills also pointed out that there was no reference to the size or placement of the casinos in the legislation.

Mills’ Micromanagement of Maine

This isn’t the first time Mills has taken a negative position on expanded gambling efforts in the state. Maine has had a difficult time addressing sports gambling and, on more than one occasion, the governor has stood in the way. She has never been friendly to the gambling industry and has previously asserted that the majority of state residents weren’t interested in legalized sports gambling; however, there has never been any verification of that assertion. In fact, this past April, a public hearing showed that there was “broad support for allowing sport wagering,” according to media outlet Maine Public.

Mills once asserted that sports gambling shouldn’t be allowed because it would lead to odds on everything, including spelling bees. Because, of course, legal sports gambling states are constantly listing spelling bee odds. However, her veto of the tribal casino bill seems to be based more on the legislation’s lack of thoroughness than her aversion to gambling. She explained in her rejection that the state’s four federally recognized tribes “have been unfairly excluded from the opportunity to operate their own gaming facility” and that lawmakers need to correct the problem. If a new bill is submitted and approved that addresses her four-page veto, it will be interesting to see if she finds another reason to deny the opportunity.

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