Once again, a third casino has its supporters and detractors. In December, Mainebiz reported that a group called Horseracing Jobs Fairness submitted 19,000 petitions containing more than 65,000 signatures to the Maine Secretary of State’s Office seeking a statewide referendum vote in November 2017. The group had earlier in the year failed to get the number of signatures needed to place it on the 2016 ballot.
The group seems to be led by Shawn Scott, a name that seems to carry lots of dubious intentions in the state of Maine. According to Bangor Daily News, “when Maine voters gave Shawn Scott the rights to Maine’s first casino nearly 14 years ago, he wrote his own law, hastily sold the rights and made a cool $51 million. And the Virgin Islands developer may have another chance to do it in 2017.”
The problem seems to be the process Mr. Scott set in motion that Maine has refused to touch over the years. So, Shawn Scott with the Horseracing Jobs Fairness group is poised to do it again, after already already putting $4.2 million into the campaign.
It seems that getting a casino in Maine goes like this:
- Get enough signees for a petition (last November included fraud concerning the previous petition)
- Get casino approved through referendum
- Build Casino
- Sell it off within a year or so, and make millions.
“Both Oxford & Banger casinos were established through the state’s ballot initiative process, and both were sold by their original developers for massive profits, turning election campaigns into little more than investments…” according to BDN.
What is missing is the debates, community forums, and a competitive process to regulate casinos found in other New England states, such as Rhode Island and Massachusetts. “Maine’s lack of casino policy — first exploited by Scott — has led to isolated debates on casinos defined by gaming interests and parochialism.”
In recent battles in the Legislature, both Hollywood and Oxford have banded together to oppose other gaming expansions with the help of local politicians and business people.
Interesting note – backers explain this as protection for Maine’s struggling harness racing industry, which would get 10 percent of slot machine income in the York County proposal. Yet, the Maine Harness Racing Association hasn’t taken a position on the proposal yet!
Opposition comes straight from Governor LePage. AP sources cite him speaking on Bangor radio station WVOM-FM, saying “Maine doesn’t have the “critical mass” to support a third casino, along with the Oxford Casino and the Hollywood Casino Hotel & Raceway Bangor.”
Essentially, this petition could be approved by the legislature without public vote. A larger casino competing within a barely stabilized casino market in Maine without public input or approval could be disastrous for the revenue to Maine’s coffers. As LePage put it recently, “It’s just greed.”