A group interested in developing a casino at an undisclosed location in York County is making a second attempt to get a referendum on the ballot, submitting petitions to the Maine Secretary of State’s Office last week in an effort to put the question before voters in November 2017.

Kristen Schulze Muszynski, spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s Office, confirmed Tuesday that a referendum campaign called Horseracing Jobs Fairness delivered more than 19,000 petitions containing more than 65,000 signatures to Secretary of State Matt Dunlap on Thursday.

“This is the same petition group as we had before. This time, they are trying to get the question on the November ballot,” she said.

Muzynski said the casino campaign must provide at least 61,123 valid signatures, a figure equivalent to 10 percent of the number of votes cast in the 2014 gubernatorial election. The Secretary of State’s Office has 30 calendar days, or until Jan. 21, to certify the signatures as valid.

The new attempt to gain voter approval for a York County casino with slot machines comes just a few months after a similar campaign failed.

On April 7, 2016, Kennebec County Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy affirmed the decision of the Secretary of State that the previous petition effort was filled with irregularities and did not contain enough valid signatures of Maine voters to qualify for the 2016 ballot.


The proposed 2016 ballot measure was written in such a way that it would allow just one person – Las Vegas entrepreneur Shawn Scott – to operate slot machines or a casino in York County. Scott was the man behind the 2003 referendum that led to Maine’s first combination horse racetrack/slots casino, or “racino,” in Bangor.

In the year before the 2003 referendum, Scott paid an estimated $1.1 million to purchase a majority share in the Bangor harness racing track and then financed most of the $1.5 million campaign to get the ballot question passed. He also spent an estimated $90,000 on a separate local initiative to gain Bangor voters’ approval for slot machines in their city.

Two months after winning approval for what would become Hollywood Casino, Scott sold the rights to Penn National for an estimated $51 million.

According to records of the Maine Ethics Commission, Horseracing Jobs Fairness has received $4.1 million in contributions between December 2015 and Dec. 13, 2016.

All of those contributions came from Scott’s sister, Lisa Scott of Miami. A real estate developer, she contributed $523,100 to the casino campaign between Oct. 26 and Dec. 13, Ethics Commission records show.

Lisa Scott could not be reached for comment Tuesday night. Representatives for the 2016 casino campaign – Stavros Mendros, a former state legislator and a Lewiston-based political consultant, and Cheryl Timberlake, an Augusta-based lobbyist and consultant – did not respond to interview requests Tuesday.


In March 2016, the Secretary of State determined that only 35,518 signatures of the 91,294 that were submitted during the previous effort were valid. Casino backers challenged the state in court, but lost their appeal as a result of Justice Murphy’s ruling.

Muszynski said that staff at the Secretary of State’s Office will start by counting the newly collected signatures. If those signatures satisfy the 61,123-signature threshold, then there will be no need for further counting. If the minimum is not reached, the state will do a second review of the 35,518 valid signatures to certify that they satisfy petition filing requirements.

Citizen petition signatures are valid for one year and the previous casino campaign started collecting signatures on Dec. 8, 2015. Muszynski did not know how many of the signatures that were deemed valid in March are more than a year old.

If casino supporters are able to have the question placed on the state ballot next November, the language of the question will have to be reviewed and approved by Dunlap and the Maine Attorney General’s Office.

According to supporting legislation posted on the Secretary of State’s website by casino advocates, the York County casino and slot machines also would have to be approved by the voters of the municipality where the facility is located.

The referendum also would exempt the casino from existing law, by allowing a casino to operate within 100 miles of an existing casino – the Oxford Casino in the town of Oxford.

Staff Writer Kevin Miller contributed to this report.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.