AUGUSTA – A bill that would allow the Scarborough Downs harness racing track to add slot machines to its facility off Route 1 if approved in a local vote passed in the Maine House of Representatives last week and is now headed to the state Senate.

The House made several amendments to the bill, L.D. 1111, which is entitled “An Act To Allow Maine’s Harness Racing Industry To Compete with Casino Gaming,” before giving it final approval, according to Ed MacColl, the attorney for Scarborough Downs owner Sharon Terry.

That amended bill is what the Senate is expected to take up this week, with a possible vote on Thursday, March 20.

MacColl said the changes made by the House include a requirement that Scarborough Downs pay a “fair market value license fee” to the state in order to be allowed to operate slot machines at the track.

The actual fee that could be charged would be based on the recommendations made by a study committee called for within the bill, but the fee would be no less than $50 million, MacColl said.

He also expects that during Senate debate on the bill other amendments will be offered, including one that would require compensation be paid to the host community to cover the added costs of policing the gaming facility, along with any other public safety or security measures that are deemed necessary.

State Sen. Jim Boyle, whose district includes a large part of Scarborough, said this week that he’s not yet sure how he would vote on L.D. 1111. He said in addition to the Scarborough Downs slots proposal, the Legislature is dealing with a number of other bills that would expand gambling in Maine.

A member of the Senate’s Democratic Caucus, Boyle said that group intended to meet on Tuesday evening, after the Current’s deadline, to more fully discuss all of the gaming measures now pending on the Senate floor.

Boyle said this week that he still “has a lot more information to gather,” before he will make up his mind about how to vote on L.D. 1111.

For him the two most important things are that “Scarborough gets a fair deal as a host community” and that the residents have a chance to vote on the proposal locally.

“This has been a very divisive issue in town and I don’t want the county or the state to decide and Scarborough have no say. We need to give the people who will be most impacted a chance to vote,” Boyle said.

– Kate Irish Collins

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