AUGUSTA

A proposed casino in York County is facing scrutiny by a state senator who worries it will be run by people who are promoting only their own interests and not that of Maine residents.

“We need some kind of reform (before allowing another casino),” said Sen. Linda Valentino, D-Saco, whose district includes Saco, Hollis, Limington, Old Orchard Beach and part of Buxton. “The whole process is kind of convoluted.”

A citizen’s initiative, “An Act to Allow Slot Machines or a Casino in York County,” was proposed by a group called Horse Racing Job Fairness in December.

If approved by voters, the initiative would allow a slot machine facility or slots and table games facility in York County. The group also proposes that the casino be exempt from a state law that restricts casinos from being located within 100 miles of each other.

According to the proposal, the facility could only be owned by “the entity that owned in 2003 at least 51 percent 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.”

That’s a pretty narrow description, and Valentino said she’s heard it’s intended to give Las Vegas casino developer Shawn Scott the licensing rights. She’s afraid he’ll turn around and sell the proposed casino to an out-of-state owner for millions of dollars.

Principal officer of Horse Racing Job Fairness is listed as Lisa Scott of Miami, who is believed to be Shawn Scott’s sister. The treasurer is listed as Cheryl Timberlake of the Augusta consulting firm Capital Insights. The group is paying Olympic Consulting, owned by Stavros Mendros of Lewiston, to help run the campaign.

The initiative would have to be approved by voters in the municipality in which the casino would reside. Proponents must get 61,123 signatures on a petition and file it with the state by Feb. 1 to get a referendum on the November ballot, according to Kristen Schulze Muszynski, director of communications for the Department of the Secretary of State.

Those involved with the citizen’s initiative have not been very forthcoming regarding the proposal.

Lisa Scott responded to an email request from the Journal Tribune by stating, “We apologize for not being available to respond to your email request.” She said members of Horseracing jobs Fairness, LLC, were out in the field collecting signatures for the citizen initiative. “The statutory deadline to qualify for the 2016 ballot is fast approaching and all resources are focused on outreach to Maine voters,” she said.

Mendros declined comment in a phone interview, except to say that the campaign was “very busy.” Timberlake has not responded to numerous phone and email inquiries.

If recent history is an indication, any proposal to build a casino in York County may face an uphill climb.

In 2010, Biddeford voters endorsed a proposal for a slot machine parlor and harness racing track, but it failed to get the necessary approval in a statewide referendum the following year.

Valentino proposed legislation in 2011 that would have created districts in the state, each of which would be allowed one casino. Her proposal would also have required a competitive bidding process and increased the licensing fee.

More recently, the state Legislature commissioned a $150,000 report that, according to the Associated Press, laid out a plan for a more competitive bidding process for granting casino licenses. The report also stated that the state could benefit from an additional casino in southern Maine and another smaller facility in either Aroostook County or Washington County.



Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: