AUGUSTA, Maine — A Maine tribal governor said Tuesday he is aiming to get a referendum on the November statewide ballot asking voters to allow a tribal casino in eastern Maine.
William Nicholas, governor of the Passamaquoddy Tribe’s Indian Township reservation, said tribal legislative representatives are working on details that would allow a referendum to move forward without the tribes having to collect more than 50,000 signatures to get on the ballot.
If state lawmakers put the measure on the ballot, it would compete against another question seeking approval for a casino in western Maine. Voters also would have the option of rejecting both proposals.
Mainers in 2003 and again in 2007 rejected referendums from the Penobscot and Passamaquoddy tribes seeking approval for a tribal casino. The tribes aren’t giving up, Nicholas said.
“The issue is fairness,” Nicholas said. “It’s only fair that if one entity is moving forward with a gaming proposal that the tribes be able to do the same thing.”
State law allows a referendum to be put on a ballot in one of two ways — either by collecting a set number of signatures from registered voters to force a question on the ballot, or by having lawmakers approve a question to be put to a vote.
Already, the group Black Bear Entertainment has turned in enough signatures to state officials to force a referendum in November for a casino in western Maine. If the tribes also get their proposal on the ballot, voters will have three choices: approve the Black Bear proposal, approve the tribal proposal or reject both.
Black Bear spokesman Peter Martin said his group doesn’t oppose a tribal casino. But if the tribes insist on putting a question on the November ballot, it lessens the chances of any casino being built, he said.
“I don’t think it serves the purpose of our side or theirs,” Martin said. “Really the only people it serves the purpose of is the anti-gaming folks, because this will hand them their victory.”