AUGUSTA — A twice-defeated bill that would give the Wabanaki tribes of Maine the exclusive right to online gambling was revived in the Senate at the last minute, only to be killed hours later in the House.

The proposal to expand the tribes’ online gambling authority from sports betting to all games of chance, such as online poker, was voted down in both the House and Senate last week. But on Tuesday, Assistant Senate Majority Leader Mattie Daughtry, D-Brunswick, asked for the bill to be reconsidered.

Sen. Mattie Daughtry, D-Brunswick. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

As a member who initially voted with the prevailing side – in this case, against the bill – she was able to ask for reconsideration to change her vote. It eventually prevailed, 19-13.

It’s a tactic seen often in the Legislature – a lawmaker votes with the prevailing side even though they don’t agree so they can bring the bill back later if the vote count changes.

Penobscot Nation Tribal Ambassador Maulian Dana said Tuesday that she was happy about the Senate’s reversal. She said the Wabanaki Alliance, a coalition that advocates for tribal self-determination, hadn’t spent much time on the gambling bill because of its focus on sovereignty. Some lawmakers might assume that expanding tribal gambling authority wasn’t important to the tribes, but that isn’t true, Dana said.

“Sovereignty remains the ultimate goal of all Wabanaki tribes, but economic development is critical to the tribes’ desire for self-determination,” Dana said. “This bill would definitely help us do that.”


But the resurrected bill hit another brick wall in the Maine House late Tuesday night, where it failed by a vote of 70-75. That is one less vote of support than the bill had landed on its first trip through the House, when it failed by a vote of 74-71. It was unclear whether bill supporters had any more cards to play to try to keep the tribal gambling bill alive one more day before the end of the session.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Laura Supica, D-Bangor, whose district includes the Hollywood Casino and Hotel.

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

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. They said the bill would be an economic boon to the tribes, surrounding municipalities and the state as a whole, because the tribes would reinvest 100% of the new revenue into the local economy, instead of sending profits to out-of-state corporations.

Supica said the tax revenues would be earmarked to fund 911 systems, emergency housing and gambling addiction programs.

The measure was opposed by Steve Silver, chairman of the Maine Gambling Control Board, who argued that licenses should not be limited to tribes and raised concerns about the proposal’s impact on the 19 groups that received more than $69 million in revenue in 2022 from the state’s two casinos, which could lose business as a result of the bill.

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