Today’s the Day – The Vote for a Third Maine Casino

A rendering of the proposed York County Casino, courtesy of the Portland Press Herald

Well, today’s the day that Maine decides if York County will be the site for Maine’s third casino. The referendum is written to allow only one person, Shawn Scott, to apply for a permit to build a casino at an unspecified location in York County. Scott is an international gambling entrepreneur who won voter approval to add slot machines to Bangor’s struggling horse track in 2003. He then sold those rights to Penn National – which still operates what is now Hollywood Casino – for $51 million as regulators scrutinized his businesses and associates.  For a related articles, click on Maine’s Third Casino A Bad Bet  and Maine’s Third Casino – The Ultimate Scam Allowed by No Legislative Policy

Shawn Scott, on the right, with attorney Courtesy Herald Press

THE CRITICS

CRITIC #1 – A political action committee called A Bad Deal for Maine that opposes a ballot initiative asking voters to approve a casino in York County has spent just over $600,000 on its campaign, according to state election finance reports. The PAC’s expenditures were funded almost entirely by $700,000 in donations from Black Bear Development LLC, the business name for Oxford Casino, which is owned by the Kentucky-based Churchill Downs Inc., the Maine casino that could lose most from the competition.

CRITIC #2 – Maine Republican Gov. Paul LePage is urging voters to oppose a ballot initiative to build a casino in York County, saying it was all about greed. LePage said. “It’s a stacked deck. Once again, Maine’s referendum process has been hijacked by big money, out-of-state interests hoping to pull the wool over your eyes.”

The Sockalexis Bingo Palace on Passamaquody reservation. BANGOR DAILY NEWS FILE PHOTO BY JOHN CLARK RUSS

CRITIC #3 – Leaders of the Passamaquoddy and Penobscot tribes spoke out Thursday against the proposed York County casino. “If approved, Question 1 would stand to directly injure the Passamaquoddy Tribe and the Penobscot Nation by significantly reducing financial support that the tribes currently receive under a voter-approved revenue sharing agreement with Oxford Casino,” said Penobscot Chief Kirk Francis, Passamaquoddy-Indian Township Chief William Nicholas and Passamaquoddy-Pleasant Point Chief Ralph Dana.

CRITIC #4 – We at NETG still think that a third casino closer to Wynn Boston Harbor (Oxford & Hollywood are more north) will not be able to compete with the Mega-Resort/Casino and will not do what the pro-casino group Progress for Maine expects.

 

PRO CASINO GROUPS

Progress For Maine wants casino legislation

PRO #1 – One of Maine’s four federally recognized Indian tribes, the Aroostook Band of Micmacs, endorsed Question 1 last month following negotiations between tribal leaders and Scott. Scott’s Progress for Maine campaign agreed to help “create new non-gaming economic development opportunities for the tribe” of roughly 1,200 members in northern Maine. In announcing their support for Question 1, the Micmac leaders pointed out that revenues from the Oxford Casino only flow to the Passamaquoddy and Penobscot tribes. The revenue “cascade” from Hollywood Casino in Bangor does not include any specific allocation to tribes.

 

 

 

PRO #2 – Progress For Maine launched a new Ad condemning Kentucky’s Churchill Downs for meddling in Maine election on Question 1.  Progress for Maine is dedicated to economic development and job growth in York County and across the entire state through the establishment of a new gaming and entertainment destination in the York County area. Progress for Maine supports a “Yes” vote on Question 1 on the statewide ballot in November. For more information visit www.ProgressforMaine.com

The full ad can be viewed here.

ETHICS REGULATORS TAKE ACTION

Maine ethics regulators on Friday levied $500,000 in fines against four political committees backing the York County casino referendum. The penalties were reduced from a sum of $4.6 million after considering mitigating factors.

VOTER TURNOUT?

According to  Scott Thistle of the Portland Press Herald, “a relatively small number of voters will decide whether to expand Medicaid and approve a casino in York County in November…..But if 2017 ends up looking anything like 2011 – the last year voters had no statewide races to decide except ballot questions on casinos – then less than half of the state’s registered voters will cast ballots.”  There is still a question whether the Pro Casino will get permission for absentee voting, and reeking havoc with the low voter turnout. Overall voter turnout in 2011 was 43 percent, as voters decided against two casino ballot questions for Lewiston and Biddeford.

As of this week, a poll shows 49% against, 40% for, (11% undecided), which is still close. A sudden surge of voters from either side could make a big difference in the turnout.

Here’s the rundown on how to vote:

Maine Question 1, the Casino or Slot Machines in York County Initiative, is on the ballot in Maine as a indirect initiated state statute on November 7, 2017.

“yes” vote supports this initiative to authorize the Maine Gambling Control Board to accept an application for a license to operate slot machines or a casino in York County, Maine.
“no” vote opposes this initiative to authorize the Maine Gambling Control Board to accept an application for a license to operate slot machines or a casino in York County, Maine.

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Maine’s Third Casino A Bad Bet

Maine’s third try at a casino in York County will not be the charm.

York County, Maine om the Mass & NH borders where the third Casino in Maine is proposed

York County, Maine om the Mass & NH borders where the third Casino in Maine is proposed

I must admit, covering another casino proposal in Maine is much like covering the NFL’s Buffalo Bills – so much promise for the season, but a championship is just never going to happen.

In this episode of “As The Maine Casino Turns,” we find a growing optimistic sentiment that Maine can enjoy the profits of a third casino and keep revenue in the state from going south to Massachusetts.

Rebecca Foster’s OpEd in CentralMaine.com, “Casino success that benefited Bangor can happen in York County,” praises the presence of Maine’s first casino saying, “By virtually any measure, the Hollywood Casino Hotel & Raceway has been a tremendous success…..What has worked for Maine and Mainers for more than 10 years can work once again — this time, in southern Maine.”

Hollywood Casino, Bangor Maine

Hollywood Casino, Bangor Maine

According to Casino.org, “A study conducted by Florida-based consulting firm Evans, Carroll & Associates claims the casino would generate 2,767 construction jobs and 2,165 permanent employment opportunities, $6.1 million in lodging revenue in the first year, and at least $45 million in tax revenue.  The economic analysis was funded by lobbying organization Progress for Maine, the main supporters of the casino.” On Nov. 7, voters across the state will have the chance to weigh in and vote yes on Question 1 for a third Maine Casino.

Ethics Trouble Again?

However, in June, the Maine Ethics Commission voted unanimously to investigate the $4.3 million ballot initiative in support of building a casino in York County. Once again, Shawn Scott emerged as the fundamental party of this casino push. Refusing to give Mr. Scott and his sister Lisa Scott, being investigated by the ethics committee, more coverage than they deserve, I’ll lead you to Casino.org’s article Controversial Maine Casino Backer Finally Surfaces, Hires ‘Firm Behind Brexit’ if you are interested in more information.  However back to “As the Maine Casino Turns.”

Shawn Scott, on the right, with attorney Courtesy Herald Press

The casino is actually being touted as an entertainment center, more than just a casino with slot machines and gaming options. This will feature a concert venue, space to hold community events, and more.  I guess it will mimic those other “non-casino, entertainment” venues in New England, like Wynn Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield, Foxwoods, and Mohegan Sun.

Recent History Says “No”

Do we need to remind “Mainiacs” of the previous history in York County, documented by NETimeGambling?

  • From 2016 – “Maine residents have already shown resistance to a third casino in their state – even after a study a few years ago concluded another casino in York County might be feasible.  But, much like we have seen in New Hampshire, a third Vegas-style casino in Maine has been an on-again, off-again proposition – mostly off.” – Maine Casino Proposal – Again?
  • From January, 2016 – “…are they (Maine) so naive to think that it isn’t too late to compete against Wynn Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield and New York States northern casinos? – Additional Maine Casino Gambling – Too Much, Too Little, Too Late
  • From 2015 – “Remember when Maine was thinking about more casinos two years ago with the immediate success of the Oxford Casino?” – Maine Casinos – Have They Lived Their Best Days Already?

The Bottom Line

Progress For Maine wants casino legislation

Maine deserves the benefits of another casino – more jobs, boosting neighboring economy, increased tourism, and increased state revenue. Trying to compete on the scale of Wynn Boston Harbor, only an hour away from York county, won’t do. Those wanting a resort/casino experience already drive down I-95 to Connecticut. This proposition by the “Progress For Maine” lobby group just seems shady, at best. Residents should back this proposed vote in November if the majority want it.  After the brief history of the previous years, and the slow progress of it’s two casinos, I’d say Maine is good with two casinos.

NETG Alternative Proposal

Plainridge Park Casino

Plainridge Park Casino, Plainville, MA

Instead of a large casino to compete with Wynn, NETG believes a convenience casino, similar to Plainridge Park Casino in Massachusetts, would get the benefits from gambling York County in looking for.  Table game players, VIP’s, will still frequent Wynn, but the low-to-mid rollers who prefer to stay closer will visit that venue – with or without the entertainment center and convention space.

If you want the gambling revenue, build something that will work in the long run, and don’t compete with the big boys. Just sayin’…..

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Maine’s Third Casino – The Ultimate Scam Allowed by No Legislative Policy

York County, Maine om the Mass & NH borders where the third Casino in Maine is proposed

York County, Maine om the Mass & NH borders where the third Casino in Maine is proposed

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.”

Oxford Casino, Maine

Oxford Casino, Maine, closest to York County.  Stands to lose the most, even with latest Hotel Expansion.

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 would be Maine’s third casino, with Oxford and Hollywood Banger.  With an expected 1500 slots, it would be the largest casino in Maine, almost twice as many slots as Hollywood Banger.

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.

    Shawn Scott, on the right, driving petition with one of his attorneys. (Press Herald)

    Shawn Scott, on the right, driving petition with one of his attorneys. (Press Herald)

“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.

maine-harness-racingInteresting 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.”

maine-lepage

Governor LePage

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.”

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Maine Casino Proposal – Again?

Maine signMaine residents have already shown resistance to a third casino in their state – even after a study a few years ago concluded another casino in York County might be feasible.  But, much like we have seen in New Hampshire, a third Vegas-style casino in Maine has been an on-again, off-again proposition – mostly off.

The Maine Senate this year rejected a bill to create a casino in Cumberland or York counties. A separate effort to put a casino on the ballot failed because supporters didn’t get enough signatures to put the proposal on the ballot.

York County, Maine om the Mass & NH borders where the third Casino in Maine is proposed

York County, Maine om the Mass & NH borders where the third Casino in Maine is proposed

Organizers of an effort to have Maine voters allow new slot machines or a casino in York County have told the state it has enough signatures – again.  Let’s remember, a separate effort to put a casino on the ballot failed this past year because supporters didn’t get enough signatures to put the proposal on the ballot.  Matter of fact, the secretary of state’s office said the effort fell short because tens of thousands of signatures were invalid.

With Hollywood Bangor trying to maintain stability after a series of months with declining revenue, and Oxford Casino expanding and adding a hotel, this isn’t the time to add another casino.  Hollywood still doesn’t seem to attract Canadian gamblers from New Brunswick 2 hours away. Another casino will only take away the positive revenue from Oxford Casino, in Oxford, Maine, which is expanding.

Maine Casino Map

Maine Casino Map

The 93-room hotel Hampton Inn Oxford just opened in walking distance across the street, and late next year, Oxford Casino’s own hotel will be open. Oxford has been off-setting Hollywood’s decline for months.hamptonoxfordmaineexterior_fp

The one good reason for another casino would be revenue from New Hampshire residents, who seem content with their charitable poker rooms.  But, in 2019, the draw of Wynn Boston Harbor will add more strain to Maine’s casinos – especially one in York County.

When will states learn to look elsewhere for stable revenue?  Obviously, in New England, some legislators have blinders on, only looking for the quick fix to revenue problems.  At this point, I think enough is enough.

What do you think?

Are there enough casinos in New England?  Too many?  Leave a comment and tell us what you think.

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