AUGUSTA — The House of Representatives voted against a proposal Tuesday that would have given Wabanaki tribes in Maine the exclusive right to internet gambling.

The proposal sought to build off the tribe’s exclusive rights to online sports gambling, which was proposed by the Mills administration and approved by lawmakers in the previous legislature.

But the bill, sponsored by Rep. Laura Supica, D-Bangor, fell in the House by a vote of 74-71, with nine Democrats crossing the aisle to join nearly unified opposition from Republicans. Rep. Roger Albert, R-Madawaska, was the only Republican to support the bill.

Opponents criticized the proposal, expected to generate $100 million for tribes in the coming years, because it excludes existing casino operators and could lead to job losses at casinos. Some expressed concerns about an increase in gambling addiction.

Rep. David Boyer, R-Poland, said he would have been open to the idea if internet gaming was opened up to existing casino operators. He urged lawmakers to vote against the bill and try again next session.

“As much as I want to play online poker, this isn’t the way to do it,” Boyer said. “I’m concerned with the jobs that are at stake in Oxford and Bangor. The tax rates are not comparable. The brick-and-mortar casinos have a very high tax rate.”


Supporters argued that allowing tribes to have exclusive rights would help address long-standing inequities against the tribes, which are treated more like municipalities because of a pair of agreements with the state that settled the tribes’ land claims.

Rep. Aaron Dana, who represents the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point, said the bill would be an economic boon to the tribes, surrounding municipalities and the state as a whole, since the tribes would reinvest 100% of the new revenue into the local economy, instead of sending profits to out-of-state corporations.

Dana noted that tribes have historically been excluded from efforts to establish casinos in the state.

“We would be spending all of that money here in the state of Maine, because we are also state of Maine citizens,” Dana said. “This economic empowerment will not only strengthen tribal sovereignty, but also enhance the overall (well) being of tribal members.”

Supica, whose district includes Hollywood Casino and Hotel, called on lawmakers to support the bill because it specifically benefits tribes.

“Much of the concern comes from the fact that it is exclusively for the tribes,” said Supica, the bill’s sponsor. “But for me that is why I wholeheartedly support it, because this is a wonderful opportunity for the state of Maine to begin to make some corrections to how they have enacted past gaming laws.”

Supica said the move could generate $100 million over the next five years, with the taxes paid to the state earmarked to fund emergency 9-1-1 systems, emergency housing and gambling addiction programs, among other things.

L.D. 1777 now goes to the Senate.

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