Say what you will about casino flipper Shawn Scott, the man knows how to write a bio.

“He is a visionary who sees value where others do not, and understands how to formulate plans that unlock that value,” reads the nugget under Scott’s name on the website of Bridge Capital LLC, the Saipan-based-firm that wants to bring another casino to Maine.

Scott, who more than a decade ago brought us Hollywood Slots in Bangor and immediately sold it for a cool $51 million, sees value where others do not, all right. And Lord knows he’s adept at unlocking that value.

But here’s the part he doesn’t brag about: When it’s all said and done, that value tends to end up in his pocket.

Last week, in what was unquestionably one of the wackier hearings in recent memory, the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee gathered to talk about the citizens initiative that calls for a new casino in York County.

Not just any casino, mind you. The measure headed for the statewide ballot in November is worded in such a way that Shawn Scott, and only Shawn Scott, can build this money-sucker.


So where was Scott when the committee decided to hold its hearing on Wednesday?

My guess is that he was sipping an umbrella drink on his island in the western Pacific, paid for by the fortune he siphoned out of Maine back in 2004.

That’s when, upon spending a few million dollars to obtain voter approval of the state’s first casino in Bangor, Scott immediately sold the place to the gambling behemoth Penn National and vamoosed with his mega-jackpot.

Which brings us to Dan Riley, an attorney and lobbyist from Portland.

In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, an email dropped into Riley’s inbox informing him he was now the paid mouthpiece for Bridge Capital.

Off Riley went to Augusta, where he would be the only person to speak in favor of the York County casino initiative. Sort of.


“This is one more example of the current law providing an investment opportunity and that’s, as I understand it, what my client has been involved in – taking advantage of that investment opportunity,” Riley told the committee.

Beyond that, it being his first day on the job and all, Riley wasn’t able to say much.

“This is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in Augusta,” said the committee’s House chairman, Rep. Louis Luchini, D-Ellsworth, in an interview Friday. “Sitting in there, you feel a little bit powerless because our options are pretty limited.”

He can say that again.

The casino referendum made it to this fall’s ballot via Horseracing Jobs Fairness. Over the past two years, the shell signature-gathering organization has spent more than $4 million trying to ram another casino down Maine’s throat.

(When it comes to outright deception, the group’s name hits the trifecta: There’s nothing requiring the casino to be anywhere near a horseracing track. Its promise of 800 construction jobs and 1,000 permanent jobs has no factual basis whatsoever. And since when is anything having to do with casino gambling fair?)


Because it’s a citizens initiative, the Legislature can only approve the proposal outright (fat chance), pass it on to the voters (a sure bet) or come up with a competing measure to appear alongside Scott’s on the November ballot (more on that in a minute).

So why have a committee hearing at all?

Because, Luchini explained, he and his co-chairman, Sen. Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon Falls, at least wanted to shed some light on who’s behind this thing. Prior to Wednesday, the $4.2-million money trail behind Horseracing Jobs Fairness began and ended with Lisa Scott of Miami, Shawn Scott’s sister.

“We all suspected that (Lisa Scott’s) brother and one of his corporations were behind it secretly,” Luchini said. Still, he added, “I was surprised they took this approach and came out and said they were.”

Maybe that’s because back in January, the state of Massachusetts slapped Bridge Capital with a $125,000 fine – the state’s second largest ever – for not revealing that it was funding a referendum to build a casino in Revere. That measure failed last November by a whopping 61 percent to 39 percent.

So at least now we know, for the record, that Shawn Scott is at it again.


We also know that if he succeeds in slipping this one past us, he’ll immediately collect his winnings from the highest bidder for his York County casino rights and laugh all the way back to Saipan.


Because, as a 2003 report for the Legislature noted, Scott avoids answering the tough questions, has questionable business connections and presides over companies “which have demonstrated sloppy, if not irresponsible, financial management and accounting practices over the years.”

More recently, there’s the seizure in 2015 of a Bridge Capital casino by the government of Laos over alleged corruption there, which prompted this quote of the week from co-chairman Mason at Wednesday’s hearing: “I would just say that if the government of Laos thinks you’re corrupt, we have a major problem.”

Bottom line, Scott is adept at getting casino proposals on ballots. But he’s far from casino-worthy.

“Once you admit that these guys are behind it, then there’s really no other option but to flip it,” noted Luchini. “Because these guys would never get licensed in any state in the country.”


Some say this is yet another example of how badly the Legislature has blown it when it comes to casino gambling in Maine.

Without a statewide, carved-in-stone policy on all casino gambling here, the argument goes, we’re perpetually vulnerable to characters like Scott and their highly paid, shamefully deceptive (yet ultimately successful) signature gatherers whose only objective is to get their scheme on the ballot.

Luchini begs to differ.

“When they say we lack a policy, I take issue with that,” he said. “Because in Maine, the policy has always been we don’t want casino gambling. That’s a policy in and of itself.”

Fair enough. Perhaps, then, the problem lies in how easily outside interests circumvent that no-casino policy and line their pockets by manipulating Maine’s citizens initiative process.

But that’s a debate for another day. For now, let’s double back to that competing-measure option that the Legislature still could deploy.


My suggestion?

Put an identical casino proposal on the ballot, with one extra caveat: If the measure passes, the “visionary” Shawn Scott must stay put and work in the facility’s parking lot.

“That,” Luchini laughingly agreed, “would be perfect.”

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at:

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