Law giving tribes sports betting revenue is bittersweet | Government and politics


PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Democratic Gov. Janet Mills on Monday signed legislation giving control of mobile sports betting to Native American tribes in Maine while reducing the tribal tax burden and creating a framework for greater collaboration.

The governor touted the new law as the most significant tribal bill in decades, though it doesn’t go as far as a separate proposal that would have provided extended sovereignty to the state’s tribes.

“This law provides significant economic opportunities for the Wabanaki Nations. It encourages investments in tribal communities and formalizes a collaborative process on policy that lays the foundation for a stronger relationship in the future,” the governor said in a statement.

The law legalizes sports betting in Maine, with tribes gaining exclusive rights to online betting while existing casinos can conduct betting in person. The law comes into force 90 days after the end of the session.

It was a bittersweet moment for the tribes because the law fell short of the sovereignty they had sought.

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The sovereignty bill would amend the Maine Indian Land Claims Settlement Act of 1980, allowing tribes in the state to be treated the same as other federally recognized tribes. The law currently treats reservations as municipalities, subject to state law, in Maine.

The legislative session ended without final action on the sovereignty bill, although it is possible that lawmakers could revive the stalled proposal when they return on May 9. The governor has sworn to veto the bill.

The Wabanaki tribes – the Penobscot Nation, the Passamaquoddy Tribes of Indian Township and Pleasant Point, the Houlton Maliseet Band and the Mi’kmaq – have been encouraged by legislative support this year. But tribal leaders said in a statement that the long-term goal continues to be full sovereignty.

“The permanent restoration of sovereignty remains the legislative priority of the Wabanaki Nations, and it will continue to be our priority going forward,” the tribal leaders said in a statement last week.

Lawmakers opened the door to sovereignty by allowing the Passamaquoddy Tribe of Pleasant Point to manage their own water supply, working with the US Environmental Protection Agency instead of state regulatory agencies. The governor signed the bill.

Mills-sponsored bill to funnel online gambling revenue to tribes has been touted as something of an olive branch from the governor who opposed full sovereignty but vowed to help the tribes .

The governor said it represented continued progress, building on his campaign vow to improve tribal relations.

She noted that she previously posthumously pardoned a tribal lawyer, supported the renaming of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day and worked to ensure strict water quality standards to protect subsistence fishing.

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