The ballot will tell you one thing, but the people behind the latest casino referendum are saying something else. If voters want to make sure they know what they are voting on next November, they should be paying attention to both.

The citizen intitiated ballot measure that will ask Mainers for the fourth time in six years whether they want to expand gambling in Maine talks about a single project, a casino resort to be built in Oxford County.

This is a new and improved version of the ballot measure that voters rejected in 2008, which was so flawed even its backers said it would have needed to be significantly rewritten by the Legislature if it had passed.

It didn’t. This time the fixing was done in advance, but the question still purports to deal with only one facility. That’s not what the measure’s promoter was saying on a recent trip to Washington County, however.

Peter Martin, the spokesman for Black Bear Entertainment, delivered the message that the hopes of expanding gambling Downeast rest on its success moving into western Maine.

“We believe that if Oxford County fails, it will be game over for Washington County,” Martin told the Bangor Daily News.

“However, if we win, we believe the Passamaquoddy tribe will be granted permission for a casino at the next legislative session. Our win is their win.”

So, in other words, the ballot may say one thing, but it will mean something else.

Martin’s comments may just be political fence-mending. The Oxford County supporters pushed to stop a movement by some in the Legislature to piggyback on the same ballot as their question with a competing measure, which would have expanded gambling operations by the Passamaquoddy tribe.

That might have been the right move for his side, but it could also cause some backlash in Washington County when it comes time to vote on the Oxford County proposal.

So Martin is saying that an expansion of gambling in one place will lead to other expansions, and he’s probably right. It gets increasingly difficult for the state to say no, if new facilites come on board.

So regardless of what the ballot says, next November’s vote won’t just be a referendum on one casino, but a question of whether Mainers want to open the gates to other still-unnamed facilities in other as-yet-unidentified locations.

That is a question worth asking, but it would be better if it just said that on the ballot.


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