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Scarborough, Maine - August 18, 2019 ...The freshman trotters of the Maine Sire Stakes program reached the mid-way point of their eight race season on Sunday (8/18) and as both the fillies and colts duked it out on the half-mile oval at Scarborough Downs, harness racing driver Heath Campbell, with two stakes win on the program, was proven the most prodigious pugilist of them all. A scant field of four Maine-breds answered the call for the colt and geldings division, requiring an early non-betting event to be conducted for a generous $9448 purse offering. All four trotters came to the races with their maiden status firmly intact and three of them left labeled the same, but it was Cashes Ledge (Noble Venture-Rhonwen) who rolled on in confident front running fashion, to post his first career winning performance while tripping the tele-timer in a smart 2:06.2. Heath Campbell earned the first of his two Maine-bred victories while calling the shots for owner/trainer Owen Davies. T Brook Billy (G. Mosher) sat second throughout and finished just that way, while Current Connection (B. Ranger) rode the pylon path for the show. Fillies proved much more plentiful than colts on Sunday though, as 14 Maine-bred lasses split out into a pair of $9948 dashes. Pembroke Whisper completely dominated the first filly contest en route to engineering her third career victory march as Heath Campbell steered the front end course behind the daughter of Noble Venture-Spring Laughter to nail his second stakes score of the afternoon. The impressive filly is trained by Valerie Grondin for stalwart owner, William Varney. The mile, timed in 2:06.4, also featured a stirring and extended battle for runner-up honors as Noble Posey (M. Athearn) and Bisou (K. Ireland) ferociously engaged throughout the final quarter to finish second and third respectively. Saving the best for last though, the final filly split proved to be the most exciting stakes race of the afternoon, as Current Caper out dueled RT's Warrior through an epic stretch battle to preserver by mere whiskers at the wire. Driver Bruce Ranger charted the winning course for the Donald Richards trainee, who broke her maiden in a respectable 2:04.2 clocking. The Daughter of Current Cast-Ally Gal Ridge is owned in tandem by Thomas Dillon and Walter Hight. RT's Warrior (M. Athearn) was magnificent in the bridesmaid role while Sammi K (G. Mosher) finished third. Live racing resumes at 4:30 PM (EDT) on Saturday (8/24) at Scarborough Downs when the $25,000 Ricci Memorial Trot will take center stage to anchor Travers Stakes Day from Saratoga Racecourse. The Ricci Memorial, pegged as the biggest trotting event of the season in Maine, will be augmented by powerful promotions, including a $500 cash giveaway, drawings for Fall Fair Fun Pac Passes to all four of Maine's fall agricultural fairs, and a gift bag drawing after every race. For more information, visit www.ScarboroughDowns.com or visit our Facebook page.   By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs

After years of struggles, there is a glimmer of hope for the harness racing track, coming off its best financial year in a decade. Since it opened in 1950, Scarborough Downs has been the flagship of the state’s horse racing industry, once referred to as “Maine’s Showplace of Harness Racing.” But when it was sold in January 2018 to a local group of developers, it seemed to mark the final chapter for a faltering racetrack that had the look and feel of a forgotten sport. Not so fast, it turns out. There seems to be a glimmer of hope for the track and the state’s harness racing industry, which has been teetering for at least two decades. Last year, Scarborough Downs posted its first annual revenue increase since 2006. More new horses are being entered in races. And the new owners don’t seem in a hurry to end the racing there. There are still challenges ahead: The buildings need repairs, attendance is low, and many horsemen still take their horses out of state. But the future appears brighter than it has in years. “We’re still thinking that it’s going to continue for the foreseeable future,” said Rocco “Roccy” Risbara of Crossroads Holdings LLC. “We’re pleased with what they’re doing there.” Crossroads Holdings plans to turn the 500 acres off Route 1 into a mixed-used village center known as The Downs. Residential construction is underway, and an agreement has been reached to build a recreational sports complex near the track. The developers also received approval last week for a 154-acre business park. But their long-term plan has never specified what will happen to the racetrack, one of two remaining commercial harness racing tracks in the state, along with Bangor Raceway. “It would be nice to know if this place is going to be around for another 30 years,” said Beth Graffam, whose family stables 50 horses at Norton Farm in Falmouth. No one will guarantee that. There are strong indications, however, that Scarborough Downs will remain open after its lease runs out when the racing season ends in December. Risbara said his group will negotiate a lease extension with the Terry family, the former owners who continue to operate the track. And the developers are conducting a $25,000 feasibility study of the track’s aging 6,500-seat grandstand to determine what can be done to make it more attractive for other events. “We’re trying to figure out what we have and what we can do with it,” Risbara said. Members of Maine’s harness racing community – from owners and trainers to drivers – are watching these developments anxiously. Last year, the state saw its first increase in total handle – money wagered on live racing and simulcasts – in 16 years, boosted by Scarborough Downs. “Scarborough Downs is extremely important to harness racing in the state of Maine,” said Drew Campbell, a driver from Saco. “It’s make or break for a lot of people, whether they stay in the business or not. A lot of people, it’s all they know.” A woman walks through the lower grandstand at Scarborough Downs to place a wager. Live harness racing accounted for just 9 percent of the track’s handle last year. BEN MCCANNA/Portland Press Herald Scarborough Downs’ revenue increased from just over $2.1 million in 2017 to just under $2.3 million in 2018, according to Denise Terry, vice president of finance. That’s an increase of 8.5 percent, halting more than a decade of annual declines that had seen revenue plunge from $4.7 million in 2006. “It was a good year. … I felt like there was a different mood here last year,” said Terry. The track has had initial talks with the developers about extending the lease, “but nothing concrete yet,” Terry said. She expects the lease negotiations to begin before summer is over. Just two years ago, Scarborough Downs officials weren’t sure from week to week if the track would stay open. “It was very discouraging,” said Mike Sweeney, the track’s publicist and race announcer. “I’d come into work every day with the thought in my mind that I didn’t want to be the one to turn the lights out for the last time.” The racetrack appeared to get even more good news when the Maine Legislature passed a bill in June to legalize sports betting, with Scarborough Downs mentioned as a site. But Gov. Janet Mills is holding the bill, delaying its implementation. Even before she did that, Scarborough Downs officials were cautious about what passage meant to the track, offering a statement that said: “We commend the legislature for creating the opportunity to legalize, regulate and tax sports betting in Maine, as it will move the activity away from the black market and increase revenue for the state. But what this means for Scarborough Downs, at this time, is still unclear to us.” Years of revenue declines have taken a toll on the track’s appearance. Some windows in the grandstand are boarded up, fences need to be mended and walls need to be painted. The tote board, which displays the odds for each race and the winner, is hard to read because so many lights are out. The track closed, and then removed, its barns in 2016 after the Environmental Protection Agency determined that seepage from horse manure had contaminated local groundwater. The barns had provided homes to over 300 horses at one time. Last year, new televisions were installed in the lower clubhouse for simulcast racing – an investment that’s paying off. The track’s simulcast handle increased 17 percent from 2017 to 2018, from $7.4 million to $8.6 million. Simulcast wagering accounted for 91 percent of the track’s total handle. Scarborough Downs provides simulcast races in its clubhouse every day from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. (or until the last race is completed) except Thanksgiving and Christmas, giving patrons the opportunity to bet on horse races across the United States. Betting on live harness races was down by $4,298 last year to $812,484, a decrease of less than 1 percent, according to the Maine State Harness Racing Commission. Still, it was Scarborough Downs’ best year in this decade. Since 2010, the live racing handle has dropped each year, most years by well over $100,000. But those total live handle numbers don’t tell the whole story of 2018. Sweeney said Scarborough Downs has been aided by a decrease in race days. For many years, the track had well over 100 racing days per year. Scarborough Downs officials had argued that was too many. In 2017, the state agreed and cut back the number of racing days. This year Scarborough was awarded 76 days, with racing on weekends from April to December and on Thursdays in the summer. Fewer days allows the track to offer larger purses (prize money) in its races – and larger purses attract more horses. The average purse per race went from $3,984 in 2017 to $4,942 in 2018, Sweeney said, making for more competitive races with full entries. In recent years, there were some races with just five horses. “The schedule needed to be truncated,” said Sweeney. “You can get people excited about coming to the track; you just can’t get people excited about coming to the track day after day after day.” Bettors have taken notice. Track officials said the per-race handle for live racing increased by 6 percent last year, from $1,054 per race in 2017 to $1,113 in 2018. All of this was good news for the state’s harness racing industry, which in 2018 saw the first increase in its total handle in 16 years. It was only a 2 percent increase – from $24.5 million in 2017 to $25 million in 2018 – but it reversed a downward spiral that had seen the statewide handle plunge by 63.6 percent since 2002, according to a report prepared for the Maine Harness Racing Commission by the Maine Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Southern Maine. “There is a lot of optimism within the industry that there is an opportunity to right the ship and see growth in the coming years,” said Henry Jennings, executive director of the Maine Harness Racing Commission. That trend may be continuing this year. On May 4 – the busiest day on Scarborough Downs’ calendar because of the Kentucky Derby – the live racing handle at Scarborough Downs was up 21 percent from 2018, Sweeney said. The overall handle, including simulcast wagers, was up 2 percent with an estimated 2,000 fans on hand. On most days with live racing, however, there are maybe a few hundred patrons at the track, many absorbed in simulcast racing on the TV screens. Few people gather on benches outside close to the track. On Derby Day, however, many of the patrons were lined along the fence at the edge of the track. “The crowd is the main thing,” said Maguire Sowers, a 19-year-old driver from New Brunswick who lives in Windsor. “The more people you have, the better it is. As you saw (on Derby Day), it was outrageous. And it’s nice when you make the turn for home in the stretch and you’ve got a horse in the lead and you hear the crowd screaming and cheering. That’s what it’s all about.” It’s a far cry from the 1970s and 1980s, when Scarborough Downs routinely had bustling crowds, including a record attendance of 9,133 on June 29, 1980, when actor Lou Ferrigno was on hand to sign autographs, according to Sweeney. By the 1990s, the crowds had dwindled and the track stopped charging admission and keeping attendance figures. And when Scarborough Downs stopped night racing in 2007 – the light posts had to be removed after the hub rail was removed for safety reasons – the crowds thinned out even more. That forced the track to close its 400-seat restaurant, which now is only open three times a year (for the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes). Funds from the Bangor Raceway casino, approved by state voters in a 2003 referendum, have helped to keep the state’s horse racing industry afloat. Ten percent of the funds go toward purses while 4 percent goes directly to the racetracks. Still, the decades-long decline in wagering at Scarborough Downs led to smaller purses, causing many owners and trainers to race their horses out of state, such as at Plainridge Park in southeastern Massachusetts. “They do an absolute five-star, first-class job there,” said Campbell, who won his 5,000th career race earlier this year. “They have a lot of things that they don’t have (at Scarborough Downs).” Plainridge, which includes a casino, opened 20 years ago, one of five harness racing tracks in America to open since 1999. Conversely, 16 harness racing tracks have closed during that time. Plainridge’s purses often exceed $15,000. Campbell races there three days a week and at Scarborough on weekends. State Rep. Don Marean, an independent from Hollis, was a horse owner and breeder in Maine for 35 years but got out of the business because of its uncertainty. He said horsemen will invest in more horses if they have assurances about Scarborough Downs’ future. “We need a plan so we can move forward,” said Marean, treasurer of the U.S. Trotting Association, the national body that oversees harness racing. “The industry will make a comeback once we have something in place that we’re going to be around for a while.” The uncertainty surrounding Scarborough Downs isn’t anything new. “It’s been going on for a very long time, since the late 1980s,” said Todd DuBois, a second-generation horse trainer from Scarborough. No one is expecting a return to the glory days, but there are encouraging signs for Scarborough Downs. Sweeney noted that of the 168 horses that raced in Scarborough on Kentucky Derby weekend, 57 did not race in Maine a year earlier. Those associated with the industry see other positive aspects. Mike Cushing, president of the Maine Harness Horseman’s Association, said he sees more owners and breeders getting involved. “Every facet of the industry is in an upward tick,” he said. People who work in the industry realize they need to appeal to a younger crowd to keep it alive. “If you have been to a track, you recognize the demographic is a bit on the elderly side,” said Jennings.”We have recognized that it’s vitally important to attract younger fans. … It’s a challenge, but I don’t think it’s insurmountable.” Scarborough Downs has pushed hard on social media, with accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The Maine Harness Racing Commission spent $10,000 on advertising in 2017. This year, Jennings said, it has $170,000 to spend. If the positives continue, Risbara said there is no rush to close the track. He said the entire development project is expected to take 30 to 40 years. “We’ll keep developing and eventually we’ll figure out what makes sense for the racetrack portion of the site,” he said. “As we start to get occupancies and people living there, it may help (the track). It certainly won’t hurt them, getting people around.” By MIKE LOWE Reprinted with permission of the Portland Press Herald

Scarborough, Maine - July 28, 2019 ... The three-year-old trotting divisions of the Maine Standardbred Breeders Stakes made their first appearance at Scarborough Downs on Sunday 7/28) after four consecutive weeks spent on the northern harness racing circuit at Bangor Raceway. The filly division split evenly into twin five-horse fields, each racing for identical $9709 purses and the streaking sensation, Just Enuf Sass, wasted precious little time in continuing her sophomore stakes dominance, whipping off her fourth consecutive victory march while cruising, in-hand, to a 6-3/4 length romp. Trained by Joseph Flynn, the impressive daughter of Boy Band-Sassy's Child stopped the clock in a leisurely 2:01.4, with Wallace Watson catch driving for the ownership tandem of Joseph and Edward Flynn. Winning Wind (M. Athearn) finished second while Lady Victoria (I. Davies) was third. Pembroke Vicki claimed top honors in the other filly split as she rode the front-end journey to her third stakes win of the season with Heath Campbell driving for trainer Valerie Grondin. Owned by William Varney, the daughter of Noble Venture-Spring Laughter has now finished either first or second in all five of her sophomore stakes appearances. Buena Vita Bebe (R. Cushing) rallied late to secure the runner-up placing while Kate At The Cup (G. Mosher) settled for third. On the boys' side of the equation, nine colts and geldings were programmed into one $10,682 field with eight scoring behind the gate and one relegated to the second tier. Undeterred by the trailing assignment though, Ally Way Cast nailed his second stakes win in row with veteran driver Gary Mosher calling the shots for Hall of Fame trainer, Donald Richards. Ally Way Cast, last year's freshman sire stakes champion is a son of Current Cast-Ally Gal Ridge and is owned in partnership by Thomas Dillon and Walter Hight. Spot On Gone (I. Davies) recovered from a break behind the gate to finish second while SaltPondNic (D. Ingraham) grabbed the show dough. Maine Sire Stakes action returns to Scarborough Downs on Saturday (8/3) when the three-year-old pacing divisions take to the raceway. Live harness racing is featured three day a week at Scarborough Downs with 4:30 pm (EDT) twilight cards slated for Thursdays and Saturdays while the popular Sunday matinee will go to post at a special 1:00 pm starting time next weekend as the Downs plays host to their 15th annual Family Fun Day Festival. For more information, visit www.ScarboroughDowns.com or visit our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs

Scarborough, Maine - July 19, 2019 ... The races scheduled for Saturday July 20th have been cancelled due to the expected high heat indices caused by the heat wave that is bearing down on the east coast this weekend. This decision was reached in joint consultation with represents of the track, the Maine Harness Racing Commission, the Maine Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association, The Maine Harness Horsemen's Association, as well as members of the veterinarian community who all agreed that proceeding with the Saturday card would present unacceptable risks to the participants. At this point, live harness racing is scheduled to resume on Sunday (7/21), weather permitting. The four dashes of three-old-old Maine Sire Stakes originally drawn as part of Saturday's cancelled card will be raced as non-betting events beginning at 11:30 AM (EDT) with the eleven-race pari-mutuel program getting underway at 1:30 PM. A decision regarding the viability of Sunday's card will be made early in the weekend if forecasts continue to predict unacceptable heat indices heading into Sunday. Please refer to the Scarborough Downs Facebook page for further updates. Live harness racing is featured three day a week at Scarborough Downs with 4:30 pm (EDT) twilight cards slated for Thursdays and Saturdays while the popular Sunday matinees go to post at 1:30 pm. For more information, visit www.ScarboroughDowns.com or visit our Facebook page.   By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs

Scarborough, Maine - July 18, 2019 ... Bruce Ranger pieced together a remarkable performance on Thursday (7/18) as the veteran harnes racing driver and "comeback kid" won six consecutive races at Scarborough Downs while completely dominating the nine race mid-week card. The fans, apparently sensing an epic performance in the making, sent Ranger to the gate as the post time favorite in all nine of his appearances, but their faith in the state of Maine native pilot did not begin paying dividends until the Ranger rampage was set loose in the fourth, as he guided Smart Balance through a gate-to-wire victory march for trainer Nicole Hardy. The juggernaut continued with a 1:57.2 score behind a headstrong Shrinkwrap (the second training win of the day for Hardy); Tricia Star (the fifth consecutive win for the Aaron Hall trainee); Plus One (the fourth consecutive win for the Buddy Burke trainee); Pop A Top Pop (one of two wins on the card for trainer Eric Davis); and concluded with San Antony-O (the 63rd career victory for the 14-year-old veteran pacer). Ranger, who is in the midst of his first full season back at the races after coming out of retirement in October of 2018, passed the 9000 career win plateau just last month at Bangor Raceway and sits as the third leading state of Maine native in career wins, trailing only Billy Parker, Jr (11,311) and Walter Case, Jr (11,049). After his six-pack performance on Thursday, Ranger now resides in third place on the Scarborough Downs leader's board with 37 seasonal scores, just 2 wins back of Kevin Switzer, Jr who resides in second place and 14 wins shy of the perennial powerhouse, Drew Campbell, who leads the driving colony at the Downs with 51 top tallies. Live harness racing is featured three day a week at Scarborough Downs with 4:30 pm (EDT) twilight cards slated for Thursdays and Saturdays while the popular Sunday matinees go to post at 1:30 pm. For more information, visit www.ScarboroughDowns.com or visit our Facebook page.   By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs

Scarborough, Maine - July 12, 2019 ... Big League harness racing returns to Scarborough Downs on Saturday (7/13) as the 70-year-old southern Maine racing venue plays host to the $25,000 Mid-Summer Classic Invitational - The biggest race of the 2019 harness racing season. Post time for the eleven race racing card, which will co-feature four divisions of the Maine Sire Stakes program, is slated for 4:30 pm (EDT). Last year's Mid-Summer Classic saw JJs Jet and driver Drew Campbell set a new track record of 1:52.3, erasing the longtime standard of 1:52.4 that was established in the 1993 edition of the Presidents Pace by Hotrod Falcon and Walter Case, Jr. This year's field appears fully capable of surpassing that effort. Bettors Fire N, the winner of over $810K and 49 races in his career, has been installed as the 5-2 morning line favorite. When last seen at the Downs in June, he claimed victory in the Dirigo Pace Invitational, timed in a sizzling 1:53, just 2/5th of a second off the overall track record. Driven by Ron Cushing, he will score from post four. Calvin B will truck up from Saratoga Raceway as state of Maine native trainer, Jimmy Nickerson, makes a homecoming appearance. This razor sharp pacer with a lifetime mark of 1:49.2 will be handled by Nickerson's nephew and regular Scarborough Downs driver, Matthew Athearn, and will score from the coveted rail position. StormyWeatherAhead, a 2019 Maine Sire Stakes divisional champion, will make his first state of Maine appearance of the year for trainer Marc Tardif. The four-year-old Maine-bred sits just three races removed from establishing a lifetime speed record of 1:52.2 at Plainridge Racecourse and will be driven by Kevin Switzer, Jr from post number two. Zack Lee, a 12-time winner already this season, will score from post number three for driver/trainer Dan Deslandes. Capable of stepping off the starting gate in the blink of an eye, this veteran pacer figures to ensure honest fractions, much as he did in his runner-up performance in June's Dirigo Pace. Quick Shot trucks up from Plainridge Racecourse for owner/trainer Kathleen Brewer and will be piloted from post five by Scarborough's leading driver, Drew Campbell. With career earnings in excess of $350K and a lifetime speed record of 1:50.4, this veteran campaigner has now finished runner-up in 5 of his last 8 starts versus top level metropolitan talent. In addition to top flight racing action, the fans will have an opportunity to win concert tickets, a gas grill, and other great prizes during giveaway drawings held after every race on the card. Prizes for this promotion were provided by the Maine Harness Horsemen's Association. An exciting interactive display called the Virtual Reality Driving Experience will be available in the grandstand facility during the entire program, giving fans the chance feel the thrills of driving in a harness race through a cutting edge VR simulation. A $7.00 BBQ chicken dinner along with other gastric specialties will be proudly served up in the Grandstand Grill. Live harness racing is featured three day a week at Scarborough Downs with 4:30 pm (EDT) twilight cards slated for Thursdays and Saturdays while the popular Sunday matinees go to post at 1:30 pm. For more information, visit www.ScarboroughDowns.com or visit our Facebook page.   By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs  

Scarborough, Maine - July 4, 2019 ... While the rest of the nation prepared to enjoy patriotic pyrotechnic displays on the Fourth of July holiday, the fans at Scarborough Downs were treated to fireworks of a totally different nature as harness racing driver David Ingraham sizzled through a three win performance en route to scoring the 7500th driving win of an amazing career. Ever the family man, Ingraham secured the milestone win with a veteran campaigner named Jay Bees Grin N who is fittingly enough co-owned by his daughter Kelsie Case Ingraham. The win, a milestone for the racehorse too, was the 40th career victory for the 11-year-old standardbred. A native of Lewiston, Maine, Ingraham cut his teeth along the Pine Tree Circuit before becoming a kingpin at Yonkers Raceway and then later PompanoPark. In recent years, Ingraham and his wife Kelly Case split time between winter campaigns at Pompano and summer sojourns in their native state of Maine, much to the delight of their loyal fans at both locales. Live harness racing is featured three day a week at Scarborough Downs with 4:30 pm (EDT) twilight cards slated for Thursdays and Saturdays while the popular Sunday matinees go to post at 1:30 pm. For more information, visit www.ScarboroughDowns.com or visit our Facebook page.   By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs

BANGOR, MAINE (WABI) - A huge night for harness racing driver Bruce Ranger. He got his 9000th career win tonight at Bangor Raceway.... Watch the video below.   By Eric Gullickson    Reprinted with permission of www.wabi.tv  

Drew Campbell put on a clinic of harness driving prowess on Sunday (6/2) winning 6 races on the 10 race program while inching closer to the latest milestone in his sights - Membership into the 5000 career win club. The perennial powerhouse and current leading driver at Scarborough Downs now sits with 4994 lifetime trips down Victory Lane and with a full slate of drives at Plainridge Park and Bangor Raceway scheduled for the coming week, chances are that Campbell will become enshrined as Mr 5000 well before live racing returns to the Downs next weekend. En route to claiming victory in the first five races on the card, Campbell opened the day with a 1:54 front-running score behind Lioness Hanover who, in the process, registered the fastest win time of the 2019 Scarborough Downs meet. He followed that speedy trip up with a pair of off-the-pace journeys with Explosiveafternoon (2:02) and Western Stepp (1:56.4), before returning to the pike-route strategy with the 14-year-old Anderlecht (1:56.3) and CJ Marshall (1:58). Campbell then reverted to the rally-method to secure Thomas B Hanover’s (1:58) third career victory to close out his phenomenal six-pack performance. Live harness racing will resume on Saturday (6/8) at Scarborough Downs with a special 2:00 pm (EDT) post time on the Belmont Stakes Day program. The card will feature three $10,000 invitational events; the renewal of the historic Dirigo Pace, The Shady Sabrina Distaff Pace and The Obrigado Trot, all leading up to the simulcast of thoroughbred racing’s third jewel of the Triple Crown season. Buffet dining will be available in the elegant Downs Club Restaurant for $21 (inclusive) on Belmont Stakes Day and reservations are recommended. For more information, visit www.ScarboroughDowns.com or visit our Facebook page.   By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs

SCARBOROUGH, Maine, April 29, 2019 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ -- The Downs development team, Crossroads Holdings LLC, today announces that ESG Associates Inc., a company specializing in recreational developments, has signed an agreement to pursue an athletic venue at The Downs. The Scarborough facility could include pools, ice rinks, indoor and outdoor fields, spectator areas, and other activity space. Currently, EDGE Sports Group (ESG) is conducting a feasibility study to determine what type of amenities should be included within The Downs facility. "This is particularly exciting for us because we've long known that our community wants these types of athletic and recreational amenities," says developer Roccy Risbara. "The Town is pleased with the progress of The Downs project, particularly the accelerated pace of the non-residential buildout," says Scarborough Town Manager Tom Hall. "The involvement of the Edge Sports Group and the construction of a commercial recreation center could serve as a catalyst to anchor the downtown portion of the project. We are eager to participate in the feasibility analysis and see if there is an opportunity for the project to meet the long-standing recreation needs of the community," Hall says. Founded in 2008, Massachusetts-based ESG has consulted on and created athletic venues, sports programs and organized league play throughout New England. The company creates "sports ecosystems" that are geared to meet the unique recreational goals of communities and deliver on unmet needs. "Greater Portland is a growing region and is currently underserved in this capacity. We see a bright future for this type of athletic complex in Scarborough," says Brian DeVellis, President of ESG Associates, Inc. "We look forward to this process and plan to design something specific to the recreational needs of the community and the region," DeVellis says. In early 2018, two lifelong Scarborough families purchased the 500-acre property at Scarborough Downs. Two sets of brothers – William, Marc and Rocco Risbara III, of Risbara Bros., and Peter and Richard Michaud, formerly of Michaud Distributors, purchased this property for $6.7M, after it had been on the market for nearly two decades. The vision for the project is to create a mixed-use community that provides the right balance between residential, commercial and light industrial development in Scarborough. The master plan for The Downs preserves 200-acres of open space and creates ten-miles of recreational trails and sidewalks that will carry pedestrians from one end of the property to the other. The center of the project will be anchored by a downtown district, where the sports complex will be located. This venue will not disrupt or displace harness racing at Scarborough Downs, instead could act as a catalyst to increase visitors to the track. The first phase of residential development at The Downs is underway, which includes 30 single-family homes, 48 condominiums and 48 apartment units. Within weeks, more than 50-percent of the units were sold or under contract. A residential-scale memory care facility will also be under construction later this year as part of this area. The second phase of development, the Innovation District is designed to attract light industrial, technology, manufacturing and retail end-users. This part of the project recently received preliminary subdivision approval from the Town's Planning Board. Development will begin this July, following final State and local approvals. ESG intends to complete its due diligence this summer, with design and permitting immediately following. The facility could be open in Spring 2021. PR Newswire

SCARBOROUGH — A Massachusetts company has signed an agreement to design a sports complex for a proposed village center that’s being developed near the harness racing track at Scarborough Downs. The Edge Sports Group, a company specializing in recreational properties, has signed a letter of intent with the developers of The Downs, a $621 million residential, commercial and light-industrial project that’s under construction at the 500-acre harness-racing venue off Route 1 and the Maine Turnpike. ESG is conducting a feasibility study to determine what amenities would be included at the complex, according to a written statement from The Downs developer Rocco Risbara. It could include swimming pools, ice rinks, indoor and outdoor playing fields, spectator areas and other activity spaces. “This is particularly exciting for us because we’ve long known that our community wants these types of athletic and recreational amenities,” Risbara said. The sports complex would anchor the downtown area that The Downs developers plan to build near the racetrack and grandstand, Risbara said. However, it wouldn’t disrupt or displace harness racing at Scarborough Downs, he said, and it could act as a catalyst to increase visitors to the track. Exactly how the sports complex would be developed, built, owned and operated are details that must be negotiated before ESG finalizes a deal with The Downs, Risbara said, leaving open the possibility that the two companies could form some kind of partnership. Risbara said the sports complex would be a private, for-profit, fee-based facility offering various types of memberships, such as individual, group, league and municipal. “Our goal will be to make it as accessible and inclusive as possible,” said Risbara, whose family operates a construction company that is general contractor for The Downs project. The sports complex would be built where Risbara suggested the town could build a community recreation center when his company was seeking a property tax break from the Town Council last year. Risbara said the complex could address a majority – but not necessarily all – of the town’s recreational and sports needs. Town Manager Tom Hall said he’s pleased with the progress of The Downs project, especially the accelerated pace of nonresidential development. “The involvement of the Edge Sports Group and the construction of a commercial recreation center could serve as a catalyst to anchor the downtown portion of the project,” Hall said in the statement. “We are eager to participate in the feasibility analysis and see if there is an opportunity for the project to meet the long-standing recreation needs of the community.” Based in Bedford, Massachusetts, ESG has consulted on and developed several athletic venues and sports leagues throughout New England. The company aims to design “sports ecosystems” that meet the recreational goals of surrounding communities. It isn’t affiliated with The Edge Academy baseball training facility on Warren Avenue in Portland. “Greater Portland is a growing region and is currently underserved in this capacity,” ESG President Brian DeVellis said. “We see a bright future for this type of athletic complex in Scarborough. We look forward to this process and plan to design something specific to the recreational needs of the community and the region.” ESG intends to complete its feasibility study this summer, then move forward with the design and permitting process. The sports complex could open as early as spring 2021. Sheila Brennan Nee, strategic director of the Maine Sports Commission, said the proposed sports complex at The Downs would complement the current regional inventory of athletic facilities and create the opportunity to bid on larger sports tournaments. “The possible development of new fields and facilities in Scarborough will be exciting to watch as Maine continues advancing as a four-season sports destination,” Nee said. “More amenities better position Maine to attract event owners whose checklists include multiple fields or more than one sheet of ice on the same site or within close proximity when considering a proposal.” Scarborough Downs was purchased last year by two sets of brothers – the Risbaras and the Michauds. The longtime town residents, friends and business owners paid $6.7 million for the sprawling property at the center of town. The racetrack had been struggling for years and on the market for nearly two decades when the brothers stepped forward. The Downs pitched the project as a mixed-use community that would balance residential, commercial and light-industrial development. It also would preserve 200 acres of open space and create 10 miles of recreational trails and sidewalks. Residential construction at The Downs is underway off Route 1, including 30 single-family homes, 48 condominiums and 48 apartments. Construction of a residential facility specializing in dementia care is expected to start later this year. The planning board recently gave preliminary approval for a light-industrial innovation district at The Downs, off Payne Road and Exit 42 of the Maine Turnpike. Site development is expected to start in July, following final state and local approvals. By Kelley Bouchard - The Portland Press Herald Reprinted with permission of The Journal Tribune

(Bangor, ME - April 26, 2019) Current Plainridge Racing Secretary Paul Verrette was named today to that same position for the upcoming harness racing meet at Hollywood Gaming Bangor. The 45-date race meet kicks off Tuesday, May 14. A native, and current resident of Lee, NH, Verrette has served as racing secretary at Plainridge Park Casino since 2000. Verrette has prior experience working in the Pine Tree State with a decade long stint as racing secretary at Scarborough Downs and several Maine fairs. "I'm excited to return to the state of Maine and take on the challenge of the Bangor racing program. Between the two tracks it will be a busy summer and fall but we have good support teams at both locations which should make it work smoothly," said Verrette. "I'm familiar with many of the horsemen racing in Maine and I hope we can coordinate more between our Penn National properties and maybe also introduce some new concepts during the meet," Verrette added. "Paul is a tireless worker who is always looking for ways to improve a racing program. It's a good fit to have Paul overseeing the racing offices for both Penn National harness tracks in the region and in the end should strengthen both locations," said Chris McErlean, Vice President of Racing for Penn National Gaming, Inc., parent company of both Hollywood Casino Bangor and Plainridge Park Casino. Qualifying races at Bangor will be conducted Tuesday, May 7 and Saturday, May 11. The racing schedule through July 19 will be Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday evenings with a 5 p.m. post time. A special Thursday, July 4 race card will be offered with a 6:30 p.m. post time. After a break in August the track resumes live racing September 10 for a 16-date fall season ending November 5. Christopher McErlean, Penn National Gaming, Inc.

Maine is taking steps to push forward with sports betting legalization as legislators will have to review as many as three sports betting bills. Gaming experts say that the state could legalize sports betting as early as next year. As sport betting legalization takes off throughout the US, lawmakers in Maine think the state should get a slice of the action. Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos, who acts as a sponsor of one of the proposals, said the reason why they want to legalize sports betting is pretty obvious – the practice is now in full swing in many states and they are reaping a number of benefits. The bill LD1348 sponsored by Evangelos is modelled on New Jersey and would permit individuals over 21 to place bets on both professional and amateur sports at casinos, off-track betting parlors and racetracks. They will also be allowed to wager online. A $30,000 license fee will be imposed, and sports gambling revenue will be taxed 25 percent. Under the proposal, almost all of the revenue will go towards primary education. The second bill presented in full will set a minimum age limit of 18 years. However, 18-year-olds will only be allowed to do it in off-track betting parlors and brick-in-mortar harness racetracks. Sponsored by Rep. Dustin White, the LD1515 proposal will impose a modest $5,000 licensing fee. The largest portion of the income derived from an 18 percent tax would go to the state’s harness racing industry while a portion would be given to primary education and college scholarships. Maine Legislature to Debate Sports Betting   LAWMAKERS DISAGREE ON SOME ASPECTS However, it remains unclear how the state is going to organize its sports betting industry. Lawmakers can’t seem to agree on a single path in terms of the gaming taxes the state should impose, as well as how the revenue generated should be used. There is currently no reliable estimation on the extent of the underground gambling market in Maine and hence there is a question market as to whether a legalized sports betting market will have a significant impact. Some experts have suggested that lawmakers in Maine take a cautious approach and lower their estimates of what they expect a legalized sports betting market to generate. Maine will also have to put in place measures to address a potential increase in problem gambling. Sen. Louis Luchini, co-chairman of the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, said the negative effects of gambling expansion cannot be ignored. Luchini, who is also drafting his own sports betting proposal, said gambling bills are always shrouded with controversy. All parties should take the time to study the proposals in order to come up with responsible gambling measures. To date, only two bills seeking to regulate sports betting have been presented in full in Maine, but there are three other proposals still in the works. By Landon Wheeler Reprinted with permission of Legal Gambling and The Law

Scarborough, Maine - March 29, 2019 ... Saturday and Sunday's live harness racing cards have been cancelled at Scarborough Downs. Track management and representatives of the Maine Harness Horseman's Association both concur that incoming weather coupled with the winter thaw have combined to create adverse track conditions, necessitating the postponement of the Opening Weekend of Maine's harness racing season. Racing is scheduled to resume on Saturday April 6th with a 12:30 pm post time. Scarborough Downs will proudly feature live harness racing on Saturday and Sunday at 12:30 PM (EDT) through the month of April. For more information, visit www.ScarboroughDowns.com or visit our Facebook page.   By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs

Scarborough, Maine - March 29, 2019 ... Scarborough Downs will swing open it's gates for the 70th consecutive year on Saturday (3/30), welcoming the multitudes of fans and horses back to the track, and heralding the start of the 2019 harness racing season in Maine. The Downs will open the race meet on a two day a week schedule, racing Saturday and Sunday afternoon cards with a post time of 12:30 p.m. (EDT). Admission to the races is once again free of charge at the Downs, and with twin 8-race programs carded for both Saturday and Sunday, the fans will have ample opportunity to witness the excitement and pageantry of harness racing from a close-up, rail-bird's seat. In addition to a season full of top harness racing action, the track is pleased to promote exciting events all season long. The Kentucky Derby, which kicks off thoroughbred racing's chase for the Triple Crown, falls on May 4th this year and will once again be the Downs' biggest party of the year. On the local side, the $25,000 Mid-Summer Classic, scheduled for July 13, will attract and showcase the finest pacers in New England while the $25,000 Joseph Ricci Memorial (August 24) will be the highlight of the trotting scene in Maine. The Maine Sire Stakes program will once again anchor the action at the Downs this summer as the regal Maine-bred pacers and trotters launch their season-long campaigns beginning on June 25, culminating in the highly anticipated Festival of Champions on October 12, where they will be racing for championship glory and combined purses that will exceed $600,000. The local harness racing season, packed with heart pounding excitement and the chance to win big, gets underway as the bugler sounds the first "Call to Post" at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday. Get Back to the Track to experience it all! Scarborough Downs will proudly feature live harness racing on Saturday and Sunday at 12:30 PM (EDT) through the month of April. For more information, visit www.ScarboroughDowns.com or visit our Facebook page.   By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs

March Madness is one of the most exciting times of the year for many sports fans, providing weeks of heroics and heartbreak on the college basketball court. But that’s not all the tournament brings to the table. According to the American Gaming Association, a group that advocates on behalf of casinos and other members of the gambling industry, this year’s March Madness tournament is expected to generate $8.5 billion in betting activity. Some of that activity will be through legal channels such as casino sportsbooks, with illegal bets going through other avenues such as bookies or offshore online sites. But while legal sports betting had long been constrained to the bright lights of Las Vegas and the state of Nevada, more and more states can now get in the game and, potentially, bring in additional revenue. For decades, federal law allowed sports gambling only in Nevada, banning it in all 49 other states. The Supreme Court, however, struck down that law last May and opened the door to sports betting across the country. Since then, seven additional states — Rhode Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia, Mississippi and New Mexico — have actively launched sports betting, according to the AGA. Maine is one of more than 20 other states actively considering a move to allow sports betting. Several proposals are in the works in Augusta, including a bill released recently by Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos, I-Friendship, and another still being drafted by Sen. Louis Luchini, D-Ellsworth, and Rep. Scott Strom, R-Pittsfield. “Let’s face it,” Evangelos told the BDN last week. “People bet on the Patriots and college games all the time.” Exploring this potential opportunity for new state revenue makes sense. But the Legislature should be in no rush as it considers ways to regulate and tax sports betting in Maine. Evangelos conceded he’s not sure how big of a windfall it could be for Maine, but sees it as “another source of revenue.” His bill would specifically funnel sports betting revenue toward education funding in Maine. Luchini, who chairs the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee that will play a primary role in reviewing sports betting legislation this legislative session, is “certainly open” to allowing this type of gambling in Maine under the right regulatory structure. But he has a different idea for where the revenues should go. “I tend to favor putting it in the General Fund,” Luchini told the BDN, suggesting that approach would ensure any sports betting revenue is consistently part of future budget debates. Milton Champion, executive director of Maine’s Gambling Control Unit, which works with the Gambling Control Board to oversee casino gambling in the state, cautioned that he’s “a little skeptical” in terms of how much revenue sports betting could generate for the state. As he waits to see fiscal projections, however, he still thinks sports betting is a direction Maine should move in — if only to keep pace with other nearby states, and keep existing gambling revenue here in Maine. “I think it’s a good idea, because the competition is going to have it,” Champion explained, likening sports betting to another “amenity” that legal betting operations can offer to customers. Other New England states are increasingly moving in the direction of allowing sports betting. Rhode Island already allows it, the New Hampshire House passed a bill last week, and both Connecticut and Massachusetts are similarly considering legislation. While the conversation here in Maine will of course include concerns about gambling’s societal impact, the fact is, we already allow betting on harness racing and at two existing casinos. “I think that train has left the station,” Evangelos told the BDN. He sees sports gambling “sweeping the nation” and wonders why Maine should be an outlier. We don’t disagree. But, as Champion correctly points out, Maine should take its time debating and devising a structure for regulation and taxation, considering the impacts, and learning from the successes and hurdles seen in other states already implementing sports betting. “There’s really not a hurry on this — we want to make sure we have the least amount of hiccups,” Champion stressed. It’s unclear what kind of odds these sports betting proposals will ultimately face as they work their way through Augusta. But as more states embrace sports gambling, the overall concept feels like a safe bet for the state. Reprinted with permission of The Bangor Daily News

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