INDIAN TOWNSHIP, Maine — After holding high-stakes bingo games for more than a month now, the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Indian Township says the business gamble has proved successful.
“It is going pretty good,” Passamaquoddy Gov. William Nicholas said recently. “Our numbers have steadily increased since we opened in July.”
Nicholas said the bingo parlor has averaged 100 players a game, with a high of 226 when the high-stakes games are offered.
“We are proud of what we have accomplished,” Nicholas said. He said he is banking on the numbers continuing to rise as summer wanes.
The 500-seat parlor, completely funded by the tribe, is bright and airy, decorated with native crafts.
It features an adjacent snack bar and restaurant, as well as closed-circuit televisions along the sides and two large lighted signs to help players follow the action.
A separate, glassed-in area contains 50 electronic gaming machines which, although they look like slot machines, are allowed by a new state law passed in June.
The largest payout to date is $12,500.
The project is part of a revitalization of the tribe itself, which just a few years ago was facing bankruptcy. Nicholas is expecting profits will help keep the tribe economically stable.
Former Gov. Robert Newell and the tribe’s business manager had been found guilty in federal court of charges in connection with the misuse of tribal and federal funds between 2002 and 2006. Newell was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay $1.74 million in restitution.
Former finance director James J. Parisi Jr. of Portland was sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison and ordered to pay $1.62 million in restitution for his role.
Although Nicholas will not say how large an investment the tribe made in the gaming hall, he said the project goes far beyond just the Passamaquoddy Tribe.
“This could be an economic boon to northeastern Washington County,” he said. “It is already bringing jobs and some economic stability to our area.” He said local motels, as far away as Calais, are reporting bookings by people attending the game.
Nicholas said more than 100 local craftsmen and laborers worked on the renovation of the facility, which was once a recreation center. More than 100 local people are now working at the parlor each weekend.
The Passamaquoddy High Stakes Bingo parlor is located in Indian Township on U.S. Route 1. For information, call 796-2277.