Congratulations, fellow Mainers.

I knew you could do it.

While other results of Election Day this year might have been disappointing, it was extremely gratifying to see the flawed York County casino proposal go down to a historic, lopsided defeat. This was the sort of election result that shows exactly why I love this state so much, why I am always so proud wherever I go anywhere in the world to tell people I am from Maine.

You see, Mainers are smart enough are smart enough to spot a raw deal from a mile away. They’re well informed enough to recognize whether a millionaire mogul from away is trying to use their wealth to hijack our citizen initiatives, whether it’s Shawn Scott trying to enrich himself or Michael Bloomberg to advance his own national agenda. Scott might have been better served financially if he had just taken all the money he spent on Question 1 and put it down at a blackjack table at Hollywood Casino in Bangor.

By defeating the York County casino proposal, we have shown to the world that Maine cannot be bought. Of course, with our elections, Maine has shown this time and time again, whether it’s with citizen initiatives or candidates – money doesn’t buy you a victory.

That’s a good thing for our state and our democracy, but it’s also a reason why one should take the endless harping on campaign finance from some with a pound of salt. It’s also a reason to be wary of some of the proposals to curtail the citizen initiative process: If terrible proposals do make it to the ballot, they can be defeated.


Though we may have, at long last, seen the last of Shawn Scott, there’s no reason to believe we’ve seen the last of these misguided casino referendums – even despite the overwhelming margin. That’s why it’s important that our legislators take advantage of this respite they’ve been given, instead of just leaving the current status quo in place. They cannot continue to stick their heads in the sand and hope these flawed referendums keep failing.

As we saw with the Oxford Casino, that’s not always a winning approach – sometimes they line up their cards right and wrangle out a win. We can’t always count on the proposal to be as obviously flawed as this, nor can we count on the supporters to be so blatantly motivated for selfish reasons.

Now, it’s no real surprise that this citizen initiative failed. Even if you bought into the economic development arguments, those effects would have been largely felt in one portion of the state – York County – and they rejected it just as firmly as the rest of us did. Indeed, if we had put the initial development of any of Maine’s largest employers out to a statewide vote, they might well have failed for the very same reason. After all, would folks in Aroostook County have seen the benefit in building an outdoor store in Freeport? Would residents of Oxford County have been convinced of the wisdom in building a shipyard in Bath? There’s a reason most economic development projects don’t go up for a statewide vote, and casinos shouldn’t have to, either.

The best way to avoid yet another casino referendum isn’t just to cross our fingers and hope for the best. Instead, it’s time for legislators to get to work in a bipartisan fashion on a regular process to allow for the establishment of gaming facilities in this state. We’ve seen the wisdom of putting in place licensing procedures for the establishments of all sorts of businesses, from restaurants to car dealerships to hair salons. Why not establish a similar consistent, reasonable procedure for casinos?

There’s no good reason to oppose this. For those who are concerned that the state might be overrun with casinos if we started granting new licenses, there are two checks on that possibility: The license itself and the free market. Just as with elections, the free market can act as a check on the hopes of every would-be gaming mogul in Maine: If people don’t want it, they won’t go, and it will fail. Through the licensing process, we can restrict the size, number and placement of casinos, so they don’t pop on every corner in the state. It’s long past time for the Legislature to recognize that gaming is here to stay, and the best way to deal with it is to regulate it rather than ignore it.

Jim Fossel, a conservative activist from Gardiner, worked for Sen. Susan Collins. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @jimfossel

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