Opponents of a Nov. 7 ballot question that will ask voters to approve a casino in York County have gone on the offensive, launching a blistering campaign website Wednesday that attacks “Shady Shawn,” a reference to Shawn Scott, the Las Vegas casino developer who would benefit from the project.

The website, wickedshady.com, calls into question the ethics and backgrounds of Scott, other casino proponents and the campaign’s chief financial backers.

A political action committee that opposes the casino, A Bad Deal for Maine, funded the website, which features links to dozens of news reports about the regulatory issues faced by Shawn Scott and his associated companies from Maine to Laos and beyond over the past two decades.

The site includes a litany of references to Scott, his sister Lisa Scott, and others who paid for a $4.3 million campaign to gather voter signatures and are bankrolling Progress for Maine, the political action committee that supports the casino.

Shawn Scott is an international gambling entrepreneur who won voter approval to add slot machines to Bangor’s struggling horse track in 2003. He then sold those rights to Penn National – which still operates what is now Bangor’s successful Hollywood Casino – for $51 million as regulators scrutinized his businesses and associates.

Scott has profited from “flipping” racetracks and gambling facilities across the country while being dogged by lawsuits and complaints about his business practices. And the campaign his sister led to get the casino question on the Maine ballot is the focus of two ethics investigations.

The referendum question is written in such a way that if it is approved by voters, only Shawn Scott or a company controlled by him would be granted the license for a casino in York County, at an undetermined location.

Those working on the opposition team include longtime conservative operative Roy Lenardson, a former staffer for the Maine Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, which has jurisdiction over casino gambling. A Waldoboro native and graduate of the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School of Public Service, Lenardson runs a political consulting firm from his home in Florida. His out-of-state residence has been highlighted by the pro-casino campaign, which is being managed largely by out-of-state consultants.

Among other things, the casino opposition website calls into question Shawn Scott’s trustworthiness, saying, “Shady Shawn is back, dealing his latest shady scheme and trying to pull a fast one on Maine voters.”

A Bad Deal for Maine filed a campaign finance report with the state Wednesday showing the PAC spent about $5,000 developing the website.

The report also shows the campaign had received only one cash donation by Sept. 30, from Lenardson for $100, and nearly $27,000 in in-kind services for a poll earlier this year. The poll was paid for by Churchill Downs, which owns a casino in Oxford, in western Maine.

The report also shows the PAC has $14,323 in unpaid debts.

The pro-casino PAC, Progress for Maine, has yet to file its quarterly campaign finance report with the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices. The report is due by the end of the day Thursday.

Michael Sherry, a spokesman for Progress for Maine, said the campaign expected to file its report by the deadline.

Sherry also took aim at Oxford Casino and Churchill Downs.

“This website is the latest effort by a Florida-based political operative to protect Kentucky-based Churchill Downs, Inc. from fair competition in the marketplace,” Sherry said in a written statement. “Churchill Downs’ Oxford Casino is hoping to preserve its monopoly by stifling choice for Mainers and blocking the millions of dollars in tax revenues that would come along with a York County casino – revenues which would be directed to schools, seniors and veterans. Mainers should see right through it and understand this is just a business protecting its turf at the expense of our state.”

So far, Progress for Maine has reported more than $300,000 in debts and campaign financial obligations, based on its most current campaign finance reports. The campaign recently launched a barrage of television advertising, as well as its own website, touting an economic impact study it paid for that was conducted by the Florida-based Evans, Carroll & Associates. The PAC is also paying for a door-to-door campaign and direct mail to potential voters, and appears to have two distinct social media campaigns operating on its behalf on Facebook and Twitter.

One account appears to be set up to attack opponents, critics and journalists who have reported on Shawn Scott’s past controversies or the ongoing investigations by the ethics commission and the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee, which are attempting to clarify where the campaign’s cash is coming from and who is actually behind the ballot question.

Some lawmakers also are calling for a review of the citizen initiative process, which they have argued is being abused by out-of-state interests or those hoping to make millions of dollars off a ballot question, as Shawn Scott stands to on Question 1.

Much of Progress for Maine’s debt is tied to work being conducted by out-of-state political consultants, including $95,000 for the Washington, D.C.-based firm of Goddard Gunster, Inc., and $62,000 for Rodriguez Strategies, based in California. Sherry’s firm, the Boston-based public relations company O’Neil and Associates, has billed the campaign for just over $58,000 to date, and the Virginia-based Public Opinion Strategies is owed $59,000 for its consulting services.

Goddard Gunster was widely credited with helping Brexit campaigners win their ballot measure in 2016 to pull the United Kingdom out of the European Union.

Progress for Maine lists more than $11,000 of in-kind contributions from American General Corp., another California-based company. The PAC so far has reported only one cash donation of $200 from Michelle Wilson, who lists a California address and appears in the PAC report as the director of operations for American General.

American General has had previous dealings with other entities that Shawn Scott is involved with, including his company Capital Seven, another donor to the casino campaign.

American General’s founder, David Wilson, is a partner with Scott in the company Atlantic & Pacific Realty Capital, which would develop the proposed casino and “are the primary backers of the campaign,” Sherry said.

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 713-6720 or at:

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