February 20, 2018

Tribes seek legal authority to proceed on casinos without state OK

Native American tribes are pursuing a legislative order in the Maine House of Representatives that would ask the Maine Supreme Judicial Court whether the tribes can operate casinos here without state approval.

The Bangor Daily News reported that Rep. Henry John Bear, who represents the Houlton Band of Maliseets, proposed the legislative order, which would only need House approval under a provision of the Maine constitution allowing the governor, House or Senate to request the state's highest court to "give their opinion upon important questions of law."

Bear cited as justification a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court decision about a case in California that lifted gaming restrictions on U.S. tribal reservations.

"I think the court will see this as the opportunity to help balance the relationship that has gone off the path and that they'll see this as saving lives [by funding public health programs] and helping to bring about healing," Bear told the BDN.

Bear said the 1987 Supreme Court decision has been used as precedent in numerous other states, arguing that once a state establishes casinos, tribes should be allowed to start their own.


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