On Thursday, 17th June, the Maine House of Representatives passed a bill with 97 votes in favor and 40 votes against. The same bill was passed in the Maine Senate on the same day with 22 votes in favor and 13 against it.
This bill, if implemented, will allow the four Native American tribes of Maine to open legal gambling establishments on their tribal property.
The bill is currently awaiting approval from the Governor of the State, Janet Mills. Her stance on the bill is not very clear. But she has in the past made some important efforts to repair the State’s relationship with the four Wabanaki tribes of the region, namely, Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, Maliseet, and Micmac.
On Thursday, before voting commenced on the bill, a non-voting representative of the Passamaquoddy, Representative Rena Newell, spoke about the importance of the gambling bill for the tribes of Maine. She mentioned her grandfather, who in 1887 had also addressed the Maine legislature. Newell pointed out that a major reason behind the poverty of many tribal communities was the State legislature going back on promises of economic security made to the tribes.
She also mentioned that Maine was one of the only States in the USA which despite having federally recognized tribes, did not allow them to participate in the gambling practices allowed for all tribes of other States.
The tribes of Maine have had a long fight for their rights. In 1980 the Maine Indians Claims Settlement Act was passed, but it did not adequately protect the tribes or compensate them for the injustices done to their generations. In 2022 a bill will be brought to the floor of the Maine legislature to bring in nearly 22 amendments to this 1980 act.
But some legislators like Christopher Babbidge are heavily against tribal casinos. He believes that the large gambling corporations will utilize the tribes to buy out more lands in the State and create almost gambling fiefdoms that will be extremely detrimental to the safety and economy of the residents of Maine.
Governor Mills has ten days to approve or dismiss the bill. There are many lobbies across the State trying to sway her opinion. But nothing can be said with certainty before the Governor makes a public statement about her stance on tribal gambling facilities.