Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians tribal representative, Henry John Bear, has asked for backing on a proposed bill from the Maine Legislature. This bill can end up leading his tribe to a casino, in the county of Aroostook. This legislation will require approval of the voters in Aroostook County, as well. State vote would not be needed if passed the way it is offered, however. Maliseet Chief Brenda Commander stated, “we believe a state wide referendum would be detriment to the process due to the lack of familiarity in Southern Main of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians and the whole area.”
If approved, the casino proposed will be built on tribal land located in Houlton, with a limit of 350 slot machines. Bear states, gross annual profits could be as much as $200 million per year, according to a study recently done. Henry John Bear stated the casino, “would bring in both out-of-state and out-of-country money which would benefit Maine's northern and Down East economies.” This casino will help bring in jobs, money, and economic development for the counties surrounding it. He states he has several co-sponsors from both the Democratic and Republican caucuses for his bill in the Legislature.
At this time, two casinos are in Maine, Oxford Casino in Oxford and Hollywood Slots Casino in Bangor. Both of these casinos are owned privately. Many other Indian tribes have made proposals throughout the years for casinos, but with no success.
Penobscot Nation and Passamaquoddy tribe had made an effort in 2003, that was rejected for a casino to be constructed in Sanford. This was from votes that were statewide. On the same vote, Hollywood Slots Casino got an approval. In 2007, a race track and casino that would be owned and operated by the Passamaquoddy tribe, got voted down, as well. Similar attempts for a tribal racino to be placed within Washington County, was thrown out in 2011.
As of right now, the bill is in front of the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee. A public hearing will be scheduled in the weeks ahead.