AUGUSTA — Bolstered by new study that finds that Maine can handle more casinos, Maine’s American Indian tribes are renewing their push to bring slot machines to their communities.

The report that lawmakers on the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee began examining Wednesday suggests that there’s room for an additional casino in southern Maine. It also finds that a smaller facility could be built in Aroostook or Washington County, with preference given to the tribes to operate it.

Representatives of the Passamaquoddy Tribe and the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, who’ve been pushing unsuccessfully to bring slot machines to their communities for years, say that the study gives them new hope that their efforts will be successful.

“We will eventually get a casino,” said Clayton Cleaves, chief of the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point. “We are very patient. … At times, a little angry, and most of the time, disappointed … but the one thing that nobody will be able to take away from us tribal members is our culture.”

The tribes contend that casinos are their best shot for creating jobs and generating revenue for things like education in communities that struggle with consistently high unemployment and little economic development.

A casino in Houlton would create as many as 600 jobs during its construction and employ 150 people once it’s built, said Henry John Bear, the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians’ representative in the Maine House.

The report estimates that a northern Maine casino could generate $18 million in total revenue in 2015.

Operators of Maine’s two existing casinos in Bangor and Oxford have fiercely opposed any effort to expand gambling, saying that doing so would “cannibalize” their businesses in a state that has just more than 1 million people.

But the roughly 140-page report from New Jersey based WhiteSand Gaming says that a casino on Maine’s southern coast near Interstate 95 would generate significant revenue for the state while creating jobs and attracting more tourists from places like New Hampshire and Massachusetts. WhiteSand said it reached that conclusion despite considering all existing gambling facilities and the potential or imminent establishment of others in those two states.

It also says that licensing an additional casino for the tribes in northern or eastern Maine that’s close to the Canadian border wouldn’t impact existing facilities if it’s limited to 250 slot machines and ten table games.

Lawmakers rejected a handful of casino bills last session, saying Maine needs to first study whether the state has the capacity for more casinos and to establish a competitive bidding process to ensure that it’s getting the best deal.

Gambling opponents say that it’s troubling that the Legislature is letting out-of-state entities decide what’s best for Maine.

Furthermore, WhiteSand, which consults for gambling corporations and manages casinos, has an interest in expanding gambling, said Carroll Conley, executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine.

Conley said he fears that the proliferation of casinos will result in more gambling addictions, which can wipe out bank accounts and devastate families.

“I’m not talking about being a nanny state … but there are victims,” he said. “What about the spouses and the children that greatly suffer as a result of this?”

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