Maine Tribal Gaming Rights Chopped from Massive Federal Spending Bill

Posted on: December 21, 2022, 01:08h. 

Last updated on: December 21, 2022, 02:43h.

An amendment to a must-pass federal spending bill that would have established gaming rights for Maine’s tribes didn’t make the final cut in the US Senate this week.

Jared Golden
The provision was introduced by Democratic US Rep. for Maine Jared Golden, above, and would have permitted tribes to operate Class II gaming on their lands. (Image: CNN)

The sovereign rights amendment, introduced by US Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine, 2nd), was approved by the House on July 14. It failed to win the backing of Maine’s Democratic governor, Janet Mills, and was opposed by the state’s two US Senators, Angus King (I) and Susan Collins (R), Central Maine reports.

The amendment would have effectively scrapped one of the provisions of the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act of 1980. This stipulated that federal Indian laws enacted after 1980 would not apply to Maine’s tribes unless the law mentioned Maine specifically.

Raw Deal

As a result, the state’s recognized tribes have missed out on some of the sovereign rights afforded to tribes elsewhere in the US, including gaming. The federal Indian Gaming Regulation Act, which codified tribal gaming rights, was enacted in 1988. It did not specifically mention Maine.

Under the 1980 law, tribal reservations are currently treated like municipalities, which means they are subject to state laws.

Maine’s recognized tribes, the Aroostook, the Maliseet, the Passamaquoddy, and the Penobscot, have long campaigned to be placed on an equal footing to tribes in other states.

In May, Gov. Mills signed a bill that gave the tribes exclusivity on the yet-to-launch mobile sports betting market as part of a wider legislative package designed to afford them more sovereign rights. It will be the first time the tribes have been legally permitted to offer any form of gaming.

Mills led negotiations with the tribes on the measures covered in the state legislation, which includes the removal of certain state and income taxes, and the right for the tribes to regulate their own water.

She stopped short of backing a more sweeping package in the state legislature to fully recognize tribal sovereignty.

Issue ‘Not Settled’

That could yet happen. But Sen. King told The Portland Press Herald last month that “any changes should result from negotiations between the tribes and the state.” That’s as opposed to a congressional amendment or an effort by the state legislature that does not consult the tribe.

Golden said he was disappointed that the provision was passed in the House on a bipartisan basis, but rejected by the Senate.

“This issue is not settled, and I look forward to working with the tribes to make headway on this important issue,” he added.

Despite legalizing sports betting over the summer, there is no timeline for its implementation, and it could be several years before operations are up and running.

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