York County casino question receives state, countywide “no”

ELLSWORTH — A York County casino developer touted his project as a job-creator and money-maker, but Mainers weren’t betting on it.

Ninety percent of Hancock County voters were opposed to Question 1 on Tuesday’s ballot. Not a single municipality in Hancock County voted in favor of the referendum.

The question was rejected statewide, according to returns from 92 percent of Maine’s precincts. Eighty-three percent of voters were opposed.

Question 1 asked voters: “Do you want to allow a certain company to operate table games and/or slot machines in York County, subject to state and local approval, with part of the profits going to the specific programs described in the initiative?”

“An Act To Allow Slot Machines or a Casino in York County” would authorize the state Gambling Control Board to accept an application for a license to operate slot machines, or a casino with table games and slot machines, in York County.

The way the legislation was worded, the only eligible applicant is Capital Seven LLC. The Nevada-based company is owned by Shawn Scott.

In 2003, Scott won voter approval to add slots to Bangor’s horse racing track. He then sold those rights to Penn National for $51 million. Penn National operates what is now Hollywood Casino.

The license for a casino in York County could be worth up to $200 million, according to state officials.

The richly funded campaign in favor of Question 1 drew criticism from legislators and political watchdogs.

The Maine Ethics Committee on Friday fined the York casino campaign $500,000 for failing to disclose the true sources of millions of dollars in campaign contributions.

Ethics Committee investigators issued a series of findings and concluding by advising the committee: “Your penalty decision in this matter should be adequate to deter future similar behavior in Maine. More and more money is available nationally to influence state laws through initiatives and referenda. Some advocates have a natural tendency toward protecting their donors from scrutiny. However, Maine has a legitimate governmental interest in preventing the use of shell donors to disguise the true source of money used to influence Maine elections.”

State Rep. Louie Luchini (D-Ellsworth) wrote on Sunday that he was “pleased with the ruling by the Ethics Commission. I think the fine is deserved. Understanding the financing behind Question 1 is essential for Maine voters, and is why we requested this investigation. We now know millions of dollars flowed from Saipan, through a Nevada LLC, into Maine, and over one million contributed from a Japanese corporation. This is a troubling example of out-of-state — and out-of-country — money taking over our citizen initiative process.”

Cyndi Wood

Cyndi Wood

Managing Editor
Cyndi is managing editor of The Ellsworth American. The Ellsworth native joined the staff of The American in 2007 as a reporter.
Cyndi Wood

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