Gambling is the fastest-growing industry in America, earning profits of $45 billion each year. Although gambling on Indian reservations is a $6 billion business, the perception of Indian wealth from gambling revenues is far from reality. Gambling operations provide economic support for only one percent of Indians. Yet, for those who have reaped the high rewards, Indian gambling has become a staple of modern tribal economics. Complex legal issues surround Indian gambling, making it an important and often contentious part of many tribal-state relationships. Maine law prohibits many gambling activities. The Legislature, however, has carved out an exception for federally recognized Indian tribes in Maine, granting them the opportunity to operate high-stakes bingo. Nevertheless, Maine's Passamaquoddy Indian Tribe has fought for the past four years to gain the State's permission to engage in other gambling activities, most notably the construction and operation of a casino in Calais. The Tribe promoted its efforts under the auspices of a 1988 federal law, the Indian Regulatory Gaming Act (IGRA). The IGRA requires states to negotiate with Indian tribes wanting to open and operate gambling enterprises, including casinos. The Maine Legislature failed to pass the numerous bills introduced to authorize application of the IGRA to Maine Indians or to provide a separate statutory basis for a casino. A subsequent decision in the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit denied application of the IGRA to Maine Indians. Faced with both legislative and judicial rejection of its casino plan, the Passamaquoddy Tribe now must reevaluate what the future holds for Indian gaming in Maine. This Comment discusses the policies behind allowing Indians “special” gambling rights, including the doctrine of tribal sovereignty.

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