Gaming the system



Maine lawmakers last week held an unusual hearing in Augusta on an upcoming citizen referendum proposal seeking permission to locate a third casino in the state, this time in York County.

Despite the name of the organization behind collection of the signatures needed to place the casino question on the ballot – “Horseracing Jobs Fairness” – the effort has little to do with any of that. Funded by a Florida woman, Lisa Scott, the sister of gambling promoter Shawn Scott, the group spent an estimated $4 million gathering voter signatures to qualify the question for the ballot this November. That investment also included the cost of an advertising blitz and the hiring of petition circulators.

Thanks to the clever wording of the ballot question, Shawn Scott is the only individual who would meet the qualifications to apply for the state’s third casino gambling license – in effect a sole-source contract.

Scott’s name may be familiar. In 2003, he purchased the Bangor Raceway for $2.7 million, then financed a similar, and successul, ballot initiative for the state’s first “racino.” Once in hand, Scott promptly sold the license for $51 million, without ever building or operating the promised casino.

That was so easy, let’s do it again.

Last week’s hearing before the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee was unusual. Lawmakers can’t prevent citizen initiatives from being placed on the ballot. But they can put competing measures addressing the same subject on the ballot.

The committee’s co-chairs, Sen. Garrett Mason (R-Lisbon) and Rep. Louis Luchini (D-Ellsworth) seized the opportunity for a public hearing to help educate the public concerning the egregiously unfair initiative voters will face in November.

In discussing his client’s proposal at the hearing last week, a lobbyist hired by the offshore firm run by Shawn Scott, told the committee that the firm plans to sell the rights, should voters pass the question. What a surprise!

Luchini characterized the entire process as “outright fraud.”

Thanks to last week’s hearing, there now appears to be general legislative agreement that the November initiative needs to be strongly opposed.

Voters in November also should be outraged by Shaw’s blatant attempt to defraud us all, a second time around.

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