AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - Greed is behind a well-funded proposal to build a new casino in southern Maine that has qualified for the ballot in November, Gov. Paul LePage said.
LePage, speaking on WVOM-FM on Tuesday, said Maine doesn’t have the “critical mass” to support a third casino, along with the Oxford Casino and the Hollywood Casino Hotel & Raceway Bangor. LePage has criticized the proposed casino, and said the proposal will hurt the state’s economy.
The Secretary of State’s office this week said the backers of the proposal had enough signatures to get on the ballot. Lisa Scott of Horseracing Jobs Fairness said in a statement that the casino proposal will preserve horse racing and provide hundreds of jobs. Scott has contributed $4.2 million to the campaign since 2015.
The way the proposal is worded, it would only allow a York County casino or slot machine operator license for Scott’s brother, Shawn, who sold his $51 million stake in Bangor Raceway more than a decade ago.
The referendum says the state would only accept license applications from “an entity that owned in 2003 at least 51% of an entity licensed to operate a commercial track in Penobscot County that conducted harness racing with pari-mutuel wagering on more than 25 days during calendar year 2002.”
The slot machine or casino facility would also need local approval, and 24 percent of net slot machine income would go to public entities like K-12 school programs. Another 15 percent of such income would promote horse racing and breeding.
This proposal would also allow 4,500 slot machines to be registered in Maine, up from 3,000.
The Republican governor on Tuesday called the proposal an example of the “slow deterioration of your government process” and called on the Legislature to resolve the matter.
Lawmakers could pass the proposed legislation as written instead of sending it to the voters.
Last year, the legislature defeated an effort for a casino in York or Cumberland County that LePage said would harm the state.
On Tuesday, LePage said that those behind the proposal “refused” to put up $50 million that would help support a fund to mitigate potential damage to local economy. The money would then be refunded after five years if the Oxford and Bangor casinos survived, LePage said in an apparent reference to stalled 2015 legislation.
“But they refused to do that,” LePage said. “See they’re not interested in good public policy, it’s just greed.”
The Horseracing Jobs Fairness campaign and LePage’s office didn’t immediately respond to requests for further comment Tuesday.
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