Maine’s Two Largest Tribes Oppose Casino Ballot Question

Nov 3, 2017

Leaders of Maine’s two largest Indian tribes are criticizing Question 1, the ballot measure that would create a casino in York County as a bad deal for Mainers and for the tribes.

In a written statement, the chiefs of the Passamaquoddy’s two reservations and the Penobscot Nation say if voters authorize Question 1, it “would represent a manipulation of our state’s policymaking process, harm the tribes and prevent rural economic development in Maine.”

Specifically, the chiefs say that the measure’s passage would directly harm the tribes by significantly reducing financial support that they receive under an existing, voter-approved revenue sharing agreement with the Oxford casino.

The arrangement is written into state law. But Passamaquoddy Tribal Ambassador Matthew Dana II says that funding could be jeopardized if York County casino backers are successful. That’s because they’ve proposed a separate funding formula for the tribes without their input.

Dana says not only is it less than what they currently receive, but it would render the current agreement with Oxford moot.

“As Oxford’s written, as soon as we have a facility of our own or if we start receiving revenue from another gaming source, then we no longer get the Oxford money,” he says.

Tribal leaders say they also object to casino backers’ campaign literature that suggests passage of the casino measure would support all four of Maine’s Native American tribes.

“It made it look to be like it might benefit us in some way. It definitely wouldn’t. And we just want to make it clear that we’re not supporting this measure,” says Penobscot Nation Tribal Ambassador Maulian Dana.

In fact, only one of the four tribes, the Aroostook Band of Micmacs, has endorsed the measure after reaching an agreement in principle with casino backers to create new, nongaming economic opportunities for the tribe. Neither they nor the Houlton Band of Maliseets were included as part of the Oxford revenue sharing agreement.

“The Wabanaki have long sought to build economic opportunities in rural Maine through gaming,” the chiefs said in their statement, “but this is just the latest attempt by out-of-staters to manipulate Maine’s citizens into supporting a casino that does not have Maine’s real interests at heart.”

A spokesman for Progress for Maine, the group backing Question 1, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This story was originally published Nov. 2, 2017 at 9:29 p.m. ET.