Supporters of the proposed casino discuss their project on November 6, 2017, a day before voters went to the polls in Maine. Photo: Yes on Question 1
Casino Stalker

Voters in Maine easily reject bid for new commercial casino after tribes objected

Voters in Maine easily rejected plans for a new commercial casino after leaders of the largest tribes raised objections.

According to news reports, 83 percent of voters registered "No" on Question 1. That's a big change from prior elections, in which two gaming projects secured approval despite tribal concerns.

The Penobscot Nation and the Passamaquoddy Tribe (Pleasant Point and Indian Township) again objected to the proposed casino in York County. They called it a bad deal for their communities, which receive a small percentage of revenues from an existing gaming facility.

But the project also had many other opponents, including Gov. Paul LePage (R), who hasn't enjoyed the best relationship with tribes. Additionally, voters expressed concerns about the backers of the casino, with one acquiring a "shady" label during the campaign.

The Aroostook Band of Micmacs, on the other hand, endorsed Question 1. Though the failed casino would have been far from the tribe's reservation in the northern part of the state, its backers pledged to fund economic development efforts there.

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 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.

Read More on the Story:
Maine voters overwhelmingly defeat proposal for York County casino (The Portland Press Herald November 7, 2017)
Maine Voters Reject York County Casino Proposal (Maine Public November 7, 2017)
Maine voters resoundingly reject York County casino (The Bangor Daily News November 7, 2017)
Question 1: Maine voters say no dice to York County casino (The Associated Press November 7, 2017)

Related Stories:
Passamaquoddy Tribe and Penobscot Nation oppose bid for new Maine casino (November 3, 2017)
Aroostook Band of Micmacs backs ballot referendum for new casino in Maine (October 13, 2017)