AP NEWS
ADVERTISEMENT

Governor vetoes Native American casino ownership bill

July 1, 2021 GMT

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Maine Gov. Janet Mills has vetoed a bill that would have given permissions to Native American tribes in the state to open and run gambling businesses on their own lands.

The bill was approved in Maine’s legislature with an overwhelming majority in June, but Mills’ administration had “serious concerns” about a bill seeking to reinstate tribal rights, the Portland Press Herald reported.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Mills said that since the start of her governorship that it has been her priority to repair the relationship between the tribes and the state, but she said the bill was plagued with issues.

Mills wrote that her concerns with the bill regarded the lack of “limitations on where tribal gaming may occur, or on the size of each facility.”

ADVERTISEMENT

She said the legislation would approve any large or small-sized casinos in nontribal communities.

The four tribes that would’ve been granted permissions from the bill released their own statement in condemnation of Mills’ decision, the newspaper said.

Chief Maggie Dana of Passamaquoddy Tribe said that “Governor Mills provides lip service to wanting to engage on tribal issues.”

Dana said that Mills has only met with tribal leaders twice in the last two years in attempts to change preexisting laws that restricted tribal autonomy.

The bipartisan gambling legislation is one part of a series of changes the legislature wants to amend the 1980 Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act. If these amendments are enacted, the revisions would restore some of the sovereignty that tribal leaders say they lost years ago, the newspaper said.

Criticism for Mills’ also involves the corporate-owned casinos in the state. Chief Clarissa Sabattis of the Houlton Band of Maliseet said Mills vetoing the bill shows her support for out of state corporate gambling interests over the people of rural Maine.

Chief Charlie Peter-Paul of the Aroostook Band of Micmac said the tribes are asking for self-determination.

“They should have that right on their native lands. The Legislature understands this. The people of Maine understand this. The governor and the large corporate gaming operations in Maine clearly don’t,” he said.

Mills said the two corporate-owned casinos in Maine were approved by voters and she supported it after the details were thoroughly planned out. She also said the tribal-owned casinos could siphon revenue from the corporate casinos, which would decrease the state’s $17 million it receives from the casino from preexisting laws that set up the casinos.

The legislature will reportedly take a vote to override the veto when it returns Thursday.