A gaming machine at Oxford Casino, a non-Indian gaming facility in Maine. Photo: Oxford Casino

Maine lawmaker seeks court ruling to help tribes with casino plans

Maine Rep. Henry John Bear, a citizen of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, wants to know whether tribes in the state can operate casinos just like most others.

If approved by lawmakers in the House, House Order 58 would direct the Maine Supreme Judicial Court to issue an opinion on the subject. Bear's bill says the U.S. Supreme Court decision in California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians determined that "state and local governments do not have the authority to regulate gambling on Indian land."

“The time is right,” Bear, who represents his tribe as a non-voting member of the Maine Legislature, told The Bangor Daily News of his desire to resolve the issue.


Nearly every tribe in the U.S. is able to follow the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which Congress enacted in 1988 in response to the Cabazon decision. But most tribes in Maine fall under land claim settlements that have been interpreted to impose state law on their homelands.

A 1983 Maine Supreme Judicial Court case appears to confirm that interpretation with respect to the Penobscot Nation, The Daily News reported.

As a result, tribes have gone through the Legislature to seek approval to open casinos or engage in gaming on their lands. Those efforts have repeatedly failed even as voters approved two non-Indian casinos in the state.

Bear is a Green Independent Party candidate for Congress. He's seeking to represent Maine's 2nd District.

Read More on the Story:
Court opinion could free Maine tribes to open casinos without state approval (The Bangor Daily News February 20, 2018)

Related Stories:
Voters in Maine easily reject bid for new commercial casino after tribes objected (November 8, 2017)
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)
Houlton Band upset with failure of yet another tribal casino bill (June 25, 2015)

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