Portland Press Herald reports that Rep. Ben Collings introduced the bill intended to keep the tribal gambling proposal on the agenda after the state lawmakers decide on the tribal sovereignty bill expected to be discussed in a few weeks. The bill proposed by Portland representative, a four-term Democrat and a former tribal consultant, supports the request of Native American tribes in Maine for tribal casino gambling approval, the issue pending in the Portland’s House for decades now.
Collings reportedly said: “Every session, I put in a tribal gaming bill, and it’s up to the tribes to decide what to do with it. Gaming could be very positive for the tribes and the surrounding area, and go a long way toward fixing things for Maine tribes, but sovereignty is the number one priority. Sovereignty first.”
The bill to recognize the sovereignty of Maine’s tribes did not pass last year after Gov. Janet Mills had notified tribal leaders and lawmakers that she would have put a veto on the bill that would imply an extended legislation. This year, Collings proposed a bill that would allow the federally recognized tribes in Maine to apply for a license to operate a casino on tribal land, as well as non-tribal land that excludes Penobscot or Oxford counties that are already the home to two Maine’s licensed casinos.
Exclusive Tribal Right:
The Maine tribes have all the rights to run the prospectively lucrative online sports-betting market but are still awaiting the applicable rules currently being drafted by the state gambling commission. Several tribes have recently announced that they would partner with Caesars Digital for online sports betting operations.
Penobscot Nation Chief Kirk E. Francis statements reportedly reads: “We are now waiting for Maine’s gambling control board to finalize the regulations for online sports betting and determine the date at which we will go live. Our agreement with Caesars provides that the Tribes will receive annual mandatory minimum payments once we begin operations.”
The last tribal gaming bill was proposed by Collings in 2021 but failed to override a veto from Gov. Janet Mills who reportedly explained: “This bill provides no predictability or meaningful limitations on where tribal gaming may occur, or on the size of each facility. The tribal gaming facilities that the legislation would authorize could be large or small, anything from a grand casino to a few slot machines.”
Another concern of the Maine tribes is the sovereignty over gambling. The Legislature will consider the respective bill to grant the four federally recognized tribes in Maine – Maliseets, Mi’kmaq, Penobscots and Passamaquoddy – the same level of sovereignty as that of 500 other tribes across the state under the federal law. The sovereignty bill will be considered in a few weeks with tribal gaming pending before the House in the meantime.