Tribal representatives in Maine are looking to overcome their long standing dispute with state legislature by bypassing it entirely.
Representative Henry John Bear has proposed an order whereby, with just the approval of the Maine house of representatives, a question could be posed to the state’s supreme judicial court as to whether tribes could operate casinos in the region without state approval.
The long standing dispute between the state and tribes stems from the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act, 1980, which upon passing extinguished all aboriginal title in Maine and currently holds precedent over IGRA regarding the operation of gaming.
The approach to the supreme judiciary comes amidst consideration of a new bill that would allow the Maine Gambling Control Board to issue tribal licences for table games and up to 1,500 slot machines. The bill further bars the board from issuing new licences until all federally recognised nations have been authorised to operate a casino.
Relations between the state and tribes have ranged from tumultuous to almost non existent in the interim, but Bear believes that it is time this is remedied for the great good.
“The time is right. I think the court will see this as the opportunity to help balance the relationship that has gone off the path and that they’ll see this as saving lives [by funding public health programs] and helping to bring about healing,” he said.
Such legislature has performed poorly in recent years, but with the potential added impetus garnered by the court approach the current push for tribal gaming in Maine is as strong as it has ever been.