The Maine House of Representatives passed a bill on a 114-26 vote with no debate that paves the way for Indian tribes in the state to open a casino in Aroostook or Washington counties. The bill still needs senate approval and a signature by the governor no later than July 1, 2017. The final hurdle would be passage by county voters  during a regular statewide election.

Late last year a study commissioned by the government resulted in what is known as the White Sands Gaming report. The report’s conclusions suggested that two casinos could be supported in the northern region of the state. In April of this year Representative, Henry John Bear offered up a proposal for a tribal casino in Aroostook County. On May 29 the Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs crafted a proposal and sent it to the democratically controlled House who passed the bill on Thursday.

Among other measures the bill establishes a competitive bidding process. A casino license would be awarded to the entry that proves it would bring the most economic benefits to the state’s tribes. There are four federally recognized American Indian tribes in Maine.

The cause to bring casino income and jobs to the state’s tribes has been championed many times in the past but has met stiff resistance from the two casinos currently operating in the state, located in Oxford and Bangor.

The bill does not yet appear on the Senate docket. The GOP controlled Senate is expected to show more resistance to the idea. Governor Paul LePage has not commented on the bill, but is on record as opposing any new casino in the southern part of the state – stating that any economic benefit to additional casinos would come at the expense of Maine’s existing casinos. A tribal casino in the northern part of the state may not face such adamant opposition.

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