On Wednesday, a bill failed to pass in the Maine House that would have paved the way for a third casino in either York or Cumberland counties.
Proponents argue that the new facility would impact the region to the tune of $500 million while opponents say that the state of Maine cannot afford to support three casinos. The measure was dismissed by others who viewed it as being poorly crafted and one that ignored the recommendations of gaming industry consultants.
Echoing that sentiment was Ellsworth Democrat and House chair of the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, Rep. Louis Luchini, who said if Maine were to advance another major gambling venue, it would need to evaluate the experiences of other states, as well as consider the recommendations submitted by a gaming consultant to the Legislature. Luchini said the current proposal does neither of those things, “is short-term, revenue is short-sighted and it’s a bad policy on how to grow gaming,” as reported by Maine Public Broadcasting.
It didn’t take long after that for geography to be reflected in the politics of the conversation. Lawmakers from eastern Maine, as well as those from the western portion of the state, where the Hollywood Casino is located in Bangor and the Oxford Casino is located, respectively, said they didn’t believe a third casino could be supported by the state without revenues at the existing facilities being adversely affected. However, Republican Rep. Wayne Parry from the York County town of Arundel said that kind of argument defied logic. He said, “If we go by that theory, you know I think we should not open a lot of different businesses, if it’s going to compete with other businesses.”
An independent from Friendship, Rep. Jeff Evangelos, was among several lawmakers who objected to the legislation based on it not addressing the needs of Maine’s Indian tribes, which for decades have been trying to obtain approval for a slot machine parlor or casino in Washington County. Objections by other lawmakers centered on the bill’s lack of a provision for a statewide vote. Others maintained that Maine needs to shore up its casino game and get its share of new gambling revenues that will present themselves due to the expansion of casinos in neighboring Massachusetts.
Meanwhile, earlier this month a signature gathering campaign to attempt to give controversial Las Vegas gambling impresario Shawn Scott the sole right to build a casino in York County failed to qualify for this year’s November ballot due to signature irregularities.