Maine Gov Vetoes Tribal Casinos Citing Budget Impact

  • Maine Gov. Janet Phillips has vetoed a bill that would allow Maine’s tribes to open casinos.
  • The only current casinos in Maine share significant portions of their revenue with the state government.
  • These hypothetical tribal casinos would not, a sticking point for Mills.

AUGUSTA, Maine - Maine, a state that allows casinos to operate outside of tribal lands, has denied Maine’s federally-recognized tribes the ability to operate their own casinos.

While a bill that would allow the tribes to operate their own casinos passed in both the House and the Senate, it was vetoed by Gov. Janet Mills.

The legislature was unable to meet the vote threshold to overturn the Governor’s veto.

Most other tribes across the country have the right to operate casinos on their land - one of the few exclusive rights afforded to tribal nations within the borders of the United States.

The vote to overturn the veto was denied by razor thin margins. In order to overturn the Governor’s veto, a two thirds majority was needed.

The final vote tally was 80-53, meaning that those in favor of extending the ability to operate casinos to the tribes were so close, yet so far away.

Tribal leaders were understandably disappointed with the veto, especially with such significant legislative weight behind the bill.

“It’s unfortunate the Governor opted to ignore the overwhelming support in the legislature. The tribes are merely asking to be able to determine their communities’ futures. 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," said Chief Charlie Peter-Paul of the Aroostook Band of Micmac.

Why Was The Bill Vetoed?

Gov. Mills pointed at several reasons in her letter to the legislature explaining why she decided to veto the bill.

First, she claims that the bill “provides no meaningful limitations” on what would be considered a gaming facility.

This, she claims, would circumvent the way in which casinos are approved in Maine. Previous casinos were approved only after it was clear what they would be. This is evidently an issue of the highest importance.

Mills worries about this opening a door for tribal gaming facilities all across Maine, should the tribe purchase land to operate them on.

The next major objection Mills raises is one of cost. Maine’s current gaming facilities pay significant portions of their revenue to the state. The hypothetical tribal gaming facilities would not.

Mills points to this as a reason to veto the bill, and demands that further legislation include “measures that minimize and account for the fiscal impact of these facilities.”

Finally, Mills points to the possibility of loopholes in state health and safety protocols that would allow the tribal casinos to operate without compliance.

Of these objections, the second one stands out. What does “minimize and account for the fiscal impact of these facilities” on the state’s budget mean?

Likely, it means that Mills will continue to veto bills like this until the state gets a significant cut of the revenue from these tribal gaming facilities, or some other equivalent compensation.

Right now, the state of Maine has a monopoly on gaming industry income, and it seems as though Gov. Mills doesn’t want to give that up without a fight.