The push to bring a third casino to the north-eastern state of Maine is reportedly continuing apace with proponents still hoping to collect the required 61,000 signatures by the first day of February in order to have the issue placed before voters via a November referendum.
According to a story from the Bangor Daily News newspaper, should gaming proponents collect enough names by the deadline, Maine voters would then be asked via a ballot to sanction a casino for York County in the extreme south-western corner of the state subject to the venue receiving the required local approvals. If subsequently passed, the legislation would see the new gambling establishment join Hollywood Casino Hotel And Raceway Bangor, which is owned by Gaming And Leisure Properties Incorporated and operated by Penn National Gaming Incorporated, and Churchill Downs Incorporated’s Oxford Casino in being able to offer Class III table games and slots.
In return, the proposed York County casino would be required to hand over 39% of its slot revenues and 16% of its takings from table games with the money earmarked for public and higher education programs as well as other state and local causes.
As to who could own the new Maine casino, the ballot question would limit the license to “an entity that owned in 2003 at least 51% of an entity licensed to operate a commercial track in Penobscot County”, which Linwood Higgins, a lobbyist for the Maine Harness Horsemen’s Association, reportedly explained would encompass solely a group being fronted by developer Shawn Scott.
The Bangor Daily News reported that Scott has been a controversial figure ever since purchasing Bangor Raceway and successfully bankrolling a 2003 campaign that brought slots to the Penobscot County facility. He subsequently sold his stake to Gaming And Leisure Properties Incorporated for a $51 million windfall but not before being linked via a report from the Maine Harness Racing Commission to a web of companies that had demonstrated “sloppy, if not irresponsible, financial management”. This investigation also reportedly tied the Las Vegas-based businessman to 37 lawsuits in four states between 1992 and 2000 while he was sued by Scarborough Downs near Portland in 2005 for allegedly undermining public support to bring slots to the Cumberland County property.
As the drive to get the casino question before voters in November continues, the newspaper reported that legislators are still considering a separate measure sponsored last year by Wayne Parry, a member of the Maine House Of Representatives. Supported by the Maine Harness Horsemen’s Association, the Republican’s legislation would allow a casino in Cumberland County or York County but would require a bidding process with an initial investment of at least $250 million.
“I think it is good public policy to have the legislature endorse any change in the law as opposed to an outside business that has written a law to its interest as opposed to the best public policy for the state,” Higgins told the Bangor Daily News.