AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- A bill before lawmakers on the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee on Monday would allow Maine's federally recognized tribes to own and operate casinos in the state
Representative Benjamin Collings, (D) Portland is the main sponsor. He says he's doing it on behalf of the tribes. There are no tribal governments located in his district, but he says he's worked with them in the past and is putting this bill out there because he feels it's a fairness issue.
"For years the tribes have carried the burden of bringing gaming to the state and they've come close and have never got it. and right now out of state corporations have claimed a monopoly here in the state and I'm glad for the jobs they provide but there's room in the market for tribal gaming," he said.
This bill authorizes the Department of Public Safety, Gambling Control Board to accept applications for a casino operator license from federally recognized Indian tribes in the state that would allow for operation of table games and up to an aggregate total of 1,500 slot machines at multiple facilities.
The bill would exempt the tribes from the state requirement that a newly licensed casino may not be within 100 miles of an existing casino or slot machine facility. It would require that 25 percent of net slot machine revenue and 16 percent of net table game revenue go the state general fund.
Chris Jackson, a representative for Hollywood Casino in Bangor testified against the bill.
"Any expansion of gambling would erode our ability to continue to operate," he said.
Jackson told lawmakers that Hollywood Casino was only operating about half its slot machines allowed under state law and that gross casino revenues have been down since the Oxford Casino opened up.
But Representative Collings is adamant that the tribes deserve a chance to create some economic opportunity for themselves. One lawmaker on the committee asked why no member of Maine's tribes was before the committee to testify on this bill. Collings told lawmakers that they were fatigued by past failures.
"They weren't willing to come here and be part of the process. right now at least four of the five tribal communities are in a wait and see approach. they're watching this they're seeing if anything comes about and if it does they may be more engaged. As you know they've been here they've put a lot of time and resources so they've been to this dance more than once."
NEWS CENTER reached out to Penoboscot Nation Chief Kirk Francis and he said he was aware of Representative Collings bill but did not help to create it and did not know enough about it to offer any comments.
William Nicholas, Chief of the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Indian Township says that he has limited information on the bill and his tribes focus right now is on another bill that would lower the licensing fee the tribe pays to the state for its high stakes bingo parlor and allow it to operate 50 slot machines.
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