The Aroostook Band of Micmacs is endorsing a new casino in Maine. Image: Yes on Question 1
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Aroostook Band of Micmacs backs ballot referendum for new casino in Maine

The Aroostook Band of Micmacs is endorsing a proposed casino in Maine after reaching an agreement with the project developers.

Chief Edward Peter-Paul said the developers have pledged to help the tribe with economic development efforts its its community. He pointed to a similar arrangement that funnels revenues from an existing casino to other tribes in the state.

"We're proud to support Yes on Question 1 because the backers of the measure have made a commitment to the tribe — to help bring new economic opportunity to us so that we can continue on our path towards achieving self-reliance," Peter-Paul said in a press release on Friday.

The Yes on Question 1 ballot referendum asks voters to authorize a casino in York County. The area is far from Aroostook headquarters but is close to population centers in the southern part of Maine and in neighboring Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Maine is already home to two non-Indian casinos, both of which were approved by voters. When tribes have pursued similar projects, they have been met repeatedly with defeat and significant political opposition.

Most tribes in the United States can freely engage in gaming on their own lands. But the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, the Penobscot Nation and the Passamaquoddy Tribe (Pleasant Point and Indian Township) cannot follow the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act due to restrictive provisions in their land claim settlement acts.

As a result, the tribes are "subject to distinct disadvantages when exploring the potential for gaming to act as an economic engine for tribal economic development and self-sufficiency," a 2014 report that was commissioned for the Maine Legislature reads.

The Aroostook Band is not subject to the same general restriction because the tribe falls under a different land claim settlement. But the tribe's reservation is located in a remote and rural area of northern Maine that may not be an attractive gaming market.

In contrast, the Oxford Casino is located near Portland, the state's most populous city. Voters approved the facility in 2010 by a slight majority.

The developers are required to share a small portion of net slot machine income -- 4 percent -- with the Penobscot and Passamaquoddy governments. The provision was added without the tribes' prior knowledge or consent and payments can be revoked in the event the tribes ever own or operate their own facilities.

The other non-Indian gaming facility in Maine is the Hollywood Casino Hotel and Raceway in Bangor, another population center. Voters approved the addition of slot machines there in 2003 while at the same time rejecting a casino proposed by the Penobscot and Passamaquoddy tribes.

Question 1, for the new facility, is on the November 7 ballot.