Maine House tries to revive tribal gambling bills


AUGUSTA — The House of Representatives on Thursday attempted to revive Native American gaming bills that were soundly rejected Wednesday night in the Senate.

In a series of votes Thursday morning, the House voted unanimously to “insist” on passage of two bills that would allow the construction of a casino on tribal lands in Aroostook County and the operation of high-stakes beano games by tribal organization. The House tabled a third bill that would clear the way for installation of slot machines at an existing Passamaquoddy Tribe facility in Washington County.

On Wednesday night, the Senate rejected all three bills, raising the ire of two Passamaquoddy tribal chiefs who said the expansion of gaming in Maine over the past several years has unfairly left Native American tribes out.

“We’re just trying to get jobs on our reservations, just like everyone else in this state,” said R. Clayton Cleaves, chief of the Passamaquoddy Tribe’s Pleasant Point Community, to the Bangor Daily News on Wednesday.

From a procedural standpoint, when a legislative body insists, it means that body is asking the other body to reconsider a previous decision. In this case, the House’s votes sends LD 1298, the casino bill, and LD 227, the high-stakes electronic beano bill, back to the Senate, which could recede and concur or the bills will die between the bodies in nonconcurrence. The Senate voted against the two bills 19-15 and 24-10, respectively.

The House’s tabling of LD 1520, the slot machine bill, could be an indication that an amendment is in the works.

The House also acted on three other gaming bills that were rejected in the Senate Wednesday night.

— LD 1111, which would reduce the restrictions for commercial harness racing tracks to install slot machines, was amended and sent back to the Senate.

— LD 31, which would allow up to five slot machines at nonprofit fraternal or veterans organization where local voters approve them, was engrossed by the House, meaning the bill will return to the Senate in nonconcurrence.

— LD 519, which would have allowed off-track betting facilities to conduct advance-deposit wagering for horse racing, is now dead after the House unanimously accepted the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee’s “ought not to pass” recommendation.