Question 1 on the Nov. 7 statewide ballot isn’t a referendum on gambling, or even the lobsters-and-lighthouses casino design proponents have been peddling.

Instead, it’s a vote on whether to give one man, Shawn Scott, a license to makes millions of dollars based on promises – not guarantees – that he will use that license in a way that makes the most of it for Maine.

Scott’s nearly two-year campaign to win a York County casino license, and his checkered history before that, have done nothing to earn that trust from voters; that’s why we are endorsing a no vote on Question 1.

The campaign began when out-of-state residents were brought here to gather signatures, and promised up to $10 a signature to get the initiative on the November 2016 ballot. That campaign was accused of using misleading statements and other questionable tactics, and the Secretary of State’s Office eventually ruled more than half of the 91,000 signatures invalid.

Later, promising up to $17 per signature, a previously unheard-of rate, the proposal made the ballot.

Still, just who was behind the initiative remained a secret. Until this spring, it was only assumed Scott was in charge – his sister, Lisa Scott, was listed as the sole donor.


Then, following a strange legislative hearing in which a lobbyist representing Scott’s firm showed up to say he didn’t know enough to answer questions, finance reports were filed showing a web of domestic and offshore funding sources that had been hidden for a year.

The Question 1 campaign is now under investigation by a legislative oversight committee looking into abuses of the citizens’ referendum process, for which it was recently called the “poster child,” and by the state ethics commission for its failure to disclose funding sources, which could bring a $4 million fine. Even after Scott was confirmed as the person behind the referendum, he has been all but completely absent from the public part of the campaign. That’s not exactly a surprise given all that he comes with – besides the shadiness that marked the campaign from the onset; the harness racing commission’s accusations of financial mismanagement during his similar campaign to bring gambling to Bangor; and the seizure of a casino run by his company in Laos following corruption charges.

Instead the campaign has used paid spokespeople – often posing in ads as regular Mainers – to sell the project. The ads focus on economic benefits, and mention tourism, jobs, conventions and concerts – but not gambling or casinos. It also pushes a building that “looks like it belongs here in Maine.”

The economic benefits, however, are based on a campaign-bought analysis of the kind often proved to be far too optimistic, and on plans that the casino developer, whether it be Scott or someone he sells the license to, is under no obligation to fulfill.

And it is highly unlikely that a casino would even reach those numbers, not when the Oxford Casino fell far short of its promised revenue, or when a $2.4 billion casino run by Las Vegas gambling magnate Steve Wynn opens just a short drive away near Boston Harbor, sucking away the region’s gaming revenue.

And again, the only thing a yes vote ensures is that Scott will get a casino license estimated to be worth $200 million, not that the casino mentioned in the campaign’s ads will get built, or the hotel, or the event center.

To believe a York County casino will be everything promised, it is necessary to believe Shawn Scott. Based on what we’ve learned, that’s a bad bet.

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