September 27, 2013

Maine study group recommends expanded gambling

But critics worry this could lead to 'total proliferation of gaming' without regard for consequences.

The Associated Press

AUGUSTA — A special legislative study group on Friday approved a recommendation that gambling in Maine be expanded, despite opposition from lawmakers and other critics who say it goes beyond the group's scope and ignores potential consequences to existing casinos.

The Gaming Commission, including lawmakers, casino managers, casino opponents and American Indian tribal leaders, voted 10-8 in favor of the recommendation.

It was brought forward by hospitality industry representatives and the tribes, who have long advocated for casinos on their land.

It urges the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee to support legislation for a number of new gambling opportunities, including allowing the Passamaquoddy Tribe to operate slot machines and table games and veterans' organizations to put slot machines in their posts.

The committee will consider the legislation when it returns in January.

The commission was formed to create a competitive bidding process framework for future casino licenses in Maine.

There are two casinos in the state now, in Bangor and Oxford.

Several opponents said the commission wasn't tasked with recommending whether gambling should be broadened.

Chief Joseph Socobasin of the Passamaquoddies at Indian Township, said tribes brought forward the recommendation because they felt that the commission was established to delay their effort to open a casino in Washington County.

But Democratic Sen. John Patrick of Rumford, co-chair of the commission, who opposed the recommendation, said it's urging the "total proliferation of gaming in Maine without knowing the consequences" or how the proposals are "going to have an effect on existing gaming laws."

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