An American Indian tribal leader says the failure of a bill to create a tribal casino in northern Maine widens the rift between the tribes and state leaders.

The bill died after the Republican-controlled Senate voted 18-16 against it Monday, although the House had approved the measure last week. The proposal would have allowed a casino designed to benefit the state’s four federally recognized tribes to be built in Washington or Aroostook counties.

The failure of the casino project is disheartening for the four tribes, said Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians Tribal Chief Brenda Commander. It comes after the tribes and state regulators have squabbled about fishing resources, and two tribes – the Penobscot Nation and the Passamaquoddies – pulled their representatives from the Maine Legislature. The fourth tribe in Maine is the Aroostook Band of Micmacs.

Commander said the tribes felt left out of the process by state legislators who altered their original proposal in committee. Commander said the tribes might consider a new approach to make the casino project happen, but she declined to elaborate.

“The whole process was not what we wanted to see,” she said. “Historically, we’ve had our challenges with the state over the years.”

The bill would have created a Casino Development Commission to accept competitive bids for the privilege to submit an application for a casino operator license. Commander said the tribe preferred the idea of a casino located on tribal land in Houlton.

Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, called the failure of the tribal casino plan “disappointing.” She said the casino had support in the House and that many legislators think it is past time to authorize a tribal casino.

“I’m terribly frustrated that we cannot, after all this time, authorize a casino on sovereign land,” Russell said. “There’s this perception that we’re regulating Maine, but this is actually a sovereign country.”

Maine has two casinos, located in Bangor and Oxford. Dan Cashman, spokesman for Hollywood Casino in Bangor, said the casino believes any expansion of gambling in the state should be accompanied by a reduction of taxes on gambling operators.

“We also believe that any proposed new facilities should be subject to state and local voter approval, just as both existing operators were,” Cashman said.

The tribal casino would have had to be approved by voters in the host county. A bill on another casino proposal, which would be located in southern Maine and is not a tribal project, will likely go to the Senate next week, Russell said.