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For gambling maven Shawn Scott, Maine looks like a good bet. “I believe in the project. It’s worth a shot,” Scott said Wednesday. Though opponents call his bid to secure a casino license through a public referendum “wicked shady,” it’s possible that voters Nov. 7 will agree with Scott that adding a third casino to the state will provide more money for popular government programs without adding to Maine’s tax burden. After all, it sounds good. Promoters promise that revenue from the new casino would provide extra cash for veterans, schools, college students, Native Americans and more, all at no cost to taxpayers. “There’s no downside to the people of Maine,” Scott said Wednesday. “There’s only upside.” Gov. Paul LePage, who vehemently opposes Question 1, said in a radio address Wednesday that contrary to supporters’ claims, the referendum is not about funding schools, creating jobs or lowering taxes. “It is about gambling. Period,” he said. LePage said Maine’s gambling market is already saturated — the state has casinos in Oxford and Bangor — and the proposed new one in York County would merely siphon business away from them. Sen. Nate Libby, D-Lewiston, said Scott is “pretty much the sole driver” behind the referendum, investing at least $9 million to try to get voter approval for a new casino for which he would hold the license. Given that a license for a new casino might be worth $200 million, Libby said, it could prove “a heck of an investment.” LePage called on voters to remember that “in gambling, the house always wins — and the house owns Question 1.” Scott, who lives on the tiny island of Saipan in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, has a different take. He said that Maine’s been losing “tens of millions of dollars” to casinos in Connecticut and elsewhere that could be spent within the state if it had the gaming facilities commensurate with its population. Scott warned that  without a new casino south of Portland “a huge amount of Maine money” and jobs would be lost when the much larger and upscale Wynn Boston Harbor opens in 2019. The ballot measure would increase the number of slot machines allowed in Maine from 3,000 to 4,500. Supporters said the new casino would provide more than 2,000 permanent jobs and contribute almost $250 million in taxes during its first five years of operation. There may be grounds for believing Maine has room for another successful casino. A 2014 state report by gaming experts endorsed the idea. Scott said reading the report helped spur his decision to try to win permission for a new gaming resort. But what makes Question 1 so unusual isn’t that it would allow a new gaming venue. It’s that it would allow only Scott to apply for the $5 million state license to build the casino. The measure reads that the state’s Gambling Control Board can only accept applications for a license for the new casino “from an entity that owned in 2003 at least 51% of an entity licensed to operate a commercial track in Penobscot County that conducted harness horse racing with parimutuel wagering on more than 25 days in 2002.” Attorney General Janet Mills’ office looked into it and determined that Capital Seven LLC, a limited liability company formed in Nevada and owned by Scott, is “the only entity eligible to apply for a slot machine or casino license in York County under this initiative.” What that means in practical terms is only Scott can apply for the license. Scott said that everyone is free to seek a referendum. “No one’s excluded from that option,” he said. “This was our idea.” If it prevails at the polls, he said, there’s nothing to stop someone else from putting another measure on the ballot to open a casino next door to his. Scott, a gambling kingpin who has operated internationally, secured a referendum win in 2003 to allow slot machines to boost the horse track in Bangor. He quickly sold his stake to Penn National for $51 million, turning a big profit on the deal, and left Maine. He also sold the rights to a Louisiana casino that he convinced voters there to approve. This time around, though, Scott said that backers have no intention of cashing out and leaving. He said he’s in it for the long haul. “I love Maine,” Scott said, and he has no intention of going anywhere if voters give him a green light for the $200 million facility he envisions. There is nothing in the measure, however, to stop him from changing his mind. Libby said that if a casino ought to be added, it should arise out of a competitive bidding that would ensure Maine got the best possible deal, not one earmarked for one person to make a bundle. Scott said that in Maine, the only way casinos have ever been allowed is through ballot questions. One of the many oddities of the casino referendum is that given the near-unanimous opposition to the proposal from legislators and political leaders, there’s at least a good chance they’d quickly amend the terms of the deal if the measure wins over voters. As last year’s ballot questions showed, winning on Election Day is no guarantee the Legislature and governor will meekly go along with a proposition they don’t like. The casino proposal would require the operator to hand over 1 percent of its gross slot machine income to the state for the gambling board’s administrative costs. It would fork over another 39 percent, allocated among a dozen accounts, including 10 percent to supplement harness racing purses, 3 percent for the support of agricultural fairs, 10 percent for education, 2 percent for scholarships  at the University of Maine and Maine Maritime Academy, 3 percent for municipalities to reduce property taxes, 1 percent for the Penobscot Nation and the Passamaquoddy Tribe and 1 percent for drug education efforts. Those supporting the referendum blame some of the opposition to it on lobbying by competing gambling interests. They point out that LePage and a number of other critics “have received tens of thousands of dollars from Kentucky-based Churchill Downs and its lobbying arm in Maine” that wants to block a new casino to protect existing interests in the state. Churchill Downs owns the Oxford casino, which would likely lose a portion of its business if a new casino opens in southern Maine. So far, Scott and other proponents have spent nearly $10 million pushing the ballot question. Churchill Downs has plunked down at least $700,000 to fight it. David Wilson, a partner in the project with Scott, said voters shouldn’t lose sight of the benefits it will bring. He said opponents are relying on “total lies” and character assassination of Scott because they’ll lose if voters focus solely on the merits of the proposal. Voters have a mixed record on ballot questions involving casinos. They approved the Oxford Casino in 2010, but the following year they shot down a proposal to allow one in Lewiston. They also refused to put slot machines in Biddeford and in Washington County in 2011. The casino question is one of four on the ballot. The only other controversial one is Question 2, a proposal to expand Medicaid in Maine. By Steve Collins Reprinted with permission of The Sun Journal

Seven people working in Maine harness racing have been suspended or fined by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry for supplying cobalt to their horses, according to a report by Portland TV station WCSH. The seven are drivers, trainers or owners of horses and some are appealing the rulings, according to the report. The use of cobalt is banned as it improves endurance, according to a report on racing.com, and can cause severe side effects in horses. Steven Vafiades of Corinth was hit the hardest for penalties as he has been suspended 450 days and must repay $23,000 in purse money. He also has been fined $2,250. Others who received suspensions of 450 days were Randy Bickmore, Patricia Switzer and Stephen Murchison. Longtime driver Drew Campbell of Scarborough, who has more 3,500 career victories, was suspended for 270 days. He also was fined $1,250 and must repay $2,150 in purse money. Bickmore, Switzer and Murchison were each fined $2,250, and each must repay purse money ranging from $4,000 to almost $11,000. Allison McDonald was ordered to repay $1,250 in purse money, and Frank Hiscock must repay $1,200. The penalties for Bickmore, Campbell, Vafiades and Switzer were apparently handed down by the Maine Harness Racing Commission in February. The commission is part of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. A report by harnessracingupdate.com on March 6 said it received a penalty summary for those four people from Henry Jennings, the commission’s acting executive director. Reprinted with permission of The Bangor Daily News 

Trenton, NJ --- For those who don’t enjoy tears in their eyes or a lump in their throat, find another story. In providing full disclosure, the saga of harness racing owner Bob Tourangeau and his horse, Terrys Star Dragon, will pull at the heartstrings of anyone who understands a human-animal relationship. In a nutshell, Tourangeau successfully urged one of his mares to remain in labor for an extra 15 minutes in order to have a colt born on his daughter’s birthday. This obviously special horse had tremendous success his first two years and, for his own good, the owner sadly sold Terrys Star Dragon at age 3. Further triumphs and an emotional one-day reunion between Tourangeau and Terrys Star Dragon followed, until the horse fell off the radar. His former owner tracked him down, recently re-purchased him, brought him back to Maine and will spend a year getting the 11-year-old in shape before he returns to try and reach $500,000 in career earnings. It’s the kind of stuff old-time after-school kids specials were made of. It all began at 11:45 p.m. on April 7, 2005. Tourangeau’s mare My Radiant Star was in labor and there were 15 minutes remaining until the calendar turned to April 8. That happened to be the birthday of Tourangeau’s late daughter, Terri, who passed away in 1984. “I sat there with my mare and I said ‘Don’t you dare,’” said Tourangeau, now 77. “I was standing outside the stall and I’m saying ‘Hold on, hold on, you can’t do this thing until after 12 o’clock,’ because it had to foaled on the 8th. “I suppose I didn’t have to be melodramatic about it, but I didn’t want to be caught in the situation of him not being born on the 8th. That would have been the first time we would have had a horse born at the same time as one of the family members.” My Radiant Star and her colt obliged as he came out at 12:08 a.m. on April 8. Bob then had the pleasant duty of telling his three teenage granddaughters that they had a simple chore to perform. “We had them try to name horses for us,” Tourangeau said. “I said ‘This one will be easy for you, the horse was born on Terri’s birthday.’ They came back the next day and said ‘That was easy.’” They changed the I to Y in order to avoid gender confusion. Star came from his mare’s name, while Sweet Dragon was his father. Terry not only shared Terri’s birthday, he showed all the characteristics of a future star. “He was described by a trainer when he came out for his first qualifier as A-Rod,” said Tourangeau. “That’s because he’s such an athletic specimen. It was a great way to compare him to Alex Rodriguez because he was the perfect specimen of muscle, size, great conformation. He just looked the part.” Terrys Star Dragon wasted little time setting the tracks of New England ablaze. Trained and driven by Mike Graffam, he won six of nine races and $37,530 at age 2, and won 13 of 14 races and $96,514 at age 3, when he was the Maine Standardbred Breeders Stakes champion. Tourangeau attended every race and displayed his love and devotion by enrolling the horse in the Full Circle program, which provides contact information to the USTA to be shared in the event the horse can no longer be cared for by its owner or is in imminent need of assistance. But after Terrys Star Dragon’s second season, Tourangeau had to make the toughest decision of his Standardbred career. He and Graffam sold the horse in order to get him better races. “We wanted to give him an opportunity to race at a level we thought he could handle,” Tourangeau said. “He was only going to get better. He was a big, strong athletic horse who never missed a start. The most difficult aspect for me is that I’m on the board of the Maine (Standardbred) Breeders and Owners Association, and we want to keep the best horses in the state of Maine.” Part of true love, however, is giving the one you love what is best for them, regardless of how badly it hurts. “That was a very tough decision,” Tourangeau said. “It was probably the toughest decision of all.” It was the right decision for the horse’s sake, as Terrys Star Dragon raced 196 times after being sold. He has currently won 56 of 219 races and earned $496,599. After selling the horse, Tourangeau watched every one of Terrys Star Dragon’s races on the Internet. Last April, Bob went down to see his grandson, Benjamin, in Florida and decided to drop in and see Terrys Star Dragon at Pompano Park. He had not seen the horse in seven years and, since he left Maine, Tourangeau believes no one called him Terry. “They had a nickname for him,” Tourangeau said. “I didn’t realize it. It never occurred to me.” When Bob and his wife entered the stable, the horse had his back to the entrance. Suddenly, a voice he had not heard was calling him a name he had not been called in seven years. How strong was the bond? “He came right over,” Tourangeau said. “That was the first time I’d seen him since we sold him in 2008. I was crying when he came over. I have a lump in my throat right now just talking about it. The fact that he responded to that name is, well, they say they never forget. He was an imprinted foal. I did the imprinting.” Saying goodbye was excruciating, as Bob wondered if he would ever see him again. He almost wanted to buy him back that day but thought better of it. Shortly thereafter, he did not see Terrys Star Dragon racing anywhere. It turned out the gelding had dropped a suspensory, which was the first injury of his career and led to a layoff. Tourangeau tracked down the owners, brokered a deal and bought his old friend. A network of folks then jumped in to help shuttle the horse back to Maine, where he arrived on Dec. 12. “I have to thank everyone who made this possible,” Tourangeau said. “Our horse community is genuinely a large family.” Graffam will return to train the horse as they take aim on the half-million dollar mark. “I put him back in his old stall,” Tourangeau said. “For the next half hour, the horse never looked at me, all he did was eat. I just talked to him, rubbed his neck and just watched him relax in his old home.” A very special couple reunited once more. by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent 

Augusta, ME --- One of Maine’s top harness racing drivers and veteran horsemen has reached a career milestone. After achieving his first win in 1977 at the Skowhegan State Fair, Gary Mosher can now be called Mr. 6,000 after piloting So What Who Cares to career victory number 6,000 at the Topsham Fair on Monday (Aug. 3) in the sixth race. The horse may be named So What Who Cares (owned by Victoria Leighton and trained by Marc Tardif), but this career milestone should not be taken so lightly. Gary Mosher, who just turned 56 years old on the Fourth of July, had family and friends on-hand to witness this momentous occasion. Yannick Gingras, one of the world’s top harness drivers and brother-in-law to Gary, attended this agricultural fair to congratulate the reinsman. Mosher took his driving talents outside of his home state in the 1980s and found quick success on the New York circuit, including at Yonkers Raceway where he developed a craft and driving style of his own. Mosher returned to Maine in the 1990s to be back with his family. He continues as a force to be reckoned with as a successful owner, trainer and driver on the Maine circuit. During his driving career, Mosher has amassed more than $25 million in purse winnings along with those 6,000 wins. Maine Harness Horsemen's Association 

Harnesslink has verified through the Maine State Harness Racing Commission that a large number of Cobalt positives have been found in race horses, with 12 positives being detected among five different trainers. Maine’s top driver, Drew Campbell and leading trainer, Randy Bickford, are among the leading offenders. “There have been tests that have come back with what would be considered excess levels of Cobalt,” said Henry Jackson, the executive director of the Maine State Harness Racing Commission. “And there was one test that had high levels of EPO. “Only one of the Cobalt cases has been heard by the Commission with a finding,” Jackson said. “That first case involving Stephen Murchison is waiting final review by the Commission. The penalty being imposed by the Commission in that case is for a one year suspension, a $1,000 fine, the return of the purse from the race and the horse has been suspended from racing for 45 days.” Drew Campbell has been notified by the Commission on two excessive levels of Cobalt in horses he trains. Randy Bickford has five Cobalt positives pending, Patricia Switzer had two Cobalt and one EPO positive and Steven Vafiades also had positives. “We are not sure when the hearings will take place on these positives,” Jackson explained, “Three of the trainers have already “lawyered up” so it may take a little time before the Commission hears those cases, maybe by September. “The Maine Harness Racing Commission will continue to test for high levels of Cobalt and EPO,” Jackson said. “This is a dangerous situation for our equine athletes.” By Steven Wolf, for Harnesslink.com

Augusta, ME --- The Maine Harness racing industry and the Portland Sea Dogs (Double A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox) hosted the second annual Harness at Hadlock event to a crowd of more than 6,000 spectators on Wednesday (May 20). The event was a collaboration of efforts from the Maine Harness Racing Promotion Board, Scarborough Downs, Maine Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association, Hollywood Casino Hotel & Raceway, Maine Harness Horsemen’s Association and Standardbred Pleasure Horse Organization of Maine. The first pitch was scheduled for 6 p.m. and the doors opened at 4:30 p.m., where fans entering the ball park were greeted by current racehorses Zoe Blue Chip and Northern Regent from the Mike and Charlene Cushing Stable of Farmington. Fans young and old alike were able to interact with all members from this classy stable by petting the horses and feeding them carrots. There was also a stationary sulky set up for anyone who wanted a chance to “get in the bike.” Festivities were then brought to the field where retired racehorse and current pleasure horse show champion CC Bag A Luck, owned by Katie Flaherty of Standish, led an on-field parade of Maine drivers in their racing colors out front of the cheering fans. “CC Bag A Luck, Katie, and her husband Kevin can come back to the ball park at any time; they have an open invite,” said John Kameisha, Senior Vice President of the Sea Dogs. A short three-minute video production, created by H. Jay Burns, was shown on the stadium jumbotron to the captive audience where Jay asked some drivers on a qualifying day at Scarborough Downs, “How do you keep your colors clean?” The video can be seen here. Winny, the Promotion Board Mascot, entered the field on an ATV with the Sea Dogs Mascot, Slugger. Winny mingled with the crowd, handed out promotional items, and took pictures with excited fans. Members of the Maine driving colony stayed on the field to participate in the first pitch opening ceremony, where each driver had the opportunity to throw a pitch from the mound to home plate. Drivers Eric Davis, W. Drew Campbell, Charlene Cushing, Aaron Hall, Mitchell Cushing, David Ingraham and Kelly Case took to the concourse to meet and greet fans, conduct fan giveaways, and autograph driver cards. “With another successful Harness at Hadlock under our belts, we will surely be back to Hadlock Field next year,” said Dr. Timothy Powers, President of the Maine Harness Horsemen’s Association. The Maine Harness Horsemen's Association

Plymouth, Maine – On March 20, 2015 at 10:30 in the morning, the “All Heart” Campaign, a grass roots initiative by Maine’s Harness Horsemen, will visit the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at the Maine Medical Center in Portland. Organized by “All Heart” founder, Laurie Ballard MacKenzie, Maine reinsmen, Kevin Switzer, Jr., Drew Campbell, Dan Deslandes, Eric Davis and Matt Athearn will visit children at the hospital.   2014 was an outstanding year for Kevin Switzer, Jr. as he earned bragging rights as the top harness driver in Maine, scoring 377 wins, 68 more than his closest competitor. More impressively though, his .410 UDRS, a sort of batting average for harness drivers, ranked Kevin as the top percentage driver in all of North America in 2014 while the horses he drove earned more than $1.1-million in purses. Drew Campbell, the perennial powerhouse among a very competitive drivers colony secured yet another Drivers Championship in 2014, spinning together a grand slam performance on the closing day card to augment his meet's leading tally to 199 seasonal scores. Currently the third rated UDRS driver in North America, Campbell closed out the year in identical fashion to the way he began it, winning both the first and final dash of the nine month meet. (excerpted from Meharness.com)   While at the Children’s Hospital, the reinsmen will share their experiences working within Maine’s harness racing industry as owners, trainers and drivers of Standardbred horses. The horsemen will distribute, Margarita, One Fair Lady, a children’s book telling the story of a harness racing family and their experiences on the Maine Agricultural Fair Circuit. In addition, children will be given coloring books donated by the United States Trotting Association, 2015 Calendars featuring photographs of Standardbred horses provided by the Maine Harness Racing Promotion Board, T-Shirts donated by Bill Phipps, and heart bracelets made by Olivia, a special young lady. As part of this effort, Scarborough Downs is extending an invitation to the children’s families to attend opening day races at Scarborough Downs and witness our beautiful Standardbred athletes compete on the half mile oval. Families will be hosted by Denise Terry, a Scarborough Downs Executive. Others attending the charitable event at the Children’s Hospital will be Bethany Graffam and Janet Davis.   The “All Heart” Campaign was founded to bring greater visibility to Maine’s Harness Racing Industry. For many harness racing’s face is the two minutes seen as reinsmen with their Standardbred race on tracks throughout the State of Maine. The Campaign presents the stories and images of Maine Harness Horsemen and their families as they work throughout the year beginning in the early morning and throughout the day as they manage, train, and care for their Standardbreds as they prepare them to compete at Scarborough Downs, Bangor Raceway and Maine’s Agricultural Fairs.   To learn more about the “All Heart” initiative and the history of harness racing in the State of Maine, you can join the “All Heart”Campaign Facebook Group or visit the Lost Trotting Parks Heritage Center’s online museum at http://losttrottingparks.com. For more information contact Laurie MacKenzie by calling 207-205-2768.      

Kevin Switzer, Jr., the leading percentage driver in North America during 2014, was honored through special recognition by the Maine State Senate on Tuesday (1/13). Legislative Sentiments are significant expressions of the sense of the Legislature. They are a public declaration in honor of a personal achievement signed by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. The presentation took place in the Senate Chamber of the Maine State Capitol Building in Augusta on Tuesday, January 13, 2015 at 10:00 AM Senator Volk was recognized by the President of the Senate at which time she spokeof the accomplishments of Kevin Switzer, Jr during his 2014 harness racing season. Mr. Switzer then receive the commendation of the full Senate. 2014 was an outstanding year for Kevin Switzer, Jr. as he earned bragging rights as the top harness driver in Maine, scoring 377 wins, 68 more than his closest competitor. More impressively though, his .410 UDRS, a sort of batting average for harness drivers, ranked Kevin as the top percentage driver in all of North America in 2014 while the horses he drove earned more than $1.1 million in purses. by Mike Sweeney for Scarborough Downs

Augusta, ME --- Maine State Harness Racing Commission veteran James Tracy of Farmingdale, Maine, attended his final Commission meeting on Monday (Sept. 29), having served in the capacity for more than 16 years. Ellis Additon, Director of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s Bureau of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources, presented Tracy with a plaque in recognition of his many years of service. Additon acknowledged Tracy’s steadfast support for Maine’s harness racing industry and expressed gratitude on behalf of the Department for his willingness to continue serving for more than a year after the expiration of his final term, while awaiting the nomination of his replacement. In addition to his service on the Racing Commission, Tracy has also served as the Treasurer of the Windsor Fair since 1982 and plans to remain in that capacity. Pending confirmation by the Senate, William McFarland of China, Maine, is slated to replace Tracy as the commission member with an affiliation to an annual agricultural fair. McFarland, who was nominated by Governor Paul LePage earlier this month, currently serves as First Vice President and Director of Racing at Windsor Fair. If confirmed, McFarland will serve a three year term, joining current commission members Gary Reed of Falmouth, Dirk Duncan of Mapleton, Michael Timmons of Cumberland, and Chairperson Barbara Dresser of Saco. by John Bott, Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry  Courtesy of the USTA Web Newsroom  

On Saturday (Jan. 19) at the annual harness racing awards dinner, the Maine Harness Horsemen's Association gave out a total of $8,000 in scholarship awards.

Scarborough Downs will be donating to children and horses in need this holiday season. Starting this weekend, the track will be collecting toys for the Salvation Army's Toy Shop: customers who bring in a new, unwrapped toy will receive a free harness racing program through December 16.

Maine's fair circuit rolls into high gear this coming week (Sunday, Sept. 25) when the Cumberland Fair comes to town with a week of harness racing through Oct. 2.

Attorney/horsemen Billy Childs of Westbrook, Maine, reports that the Maine State Harness Racing Commission withdrew its complaint against trainer Douglas Gray for an alleged elevated TCO2 violation.

Four days from now, harness racing's 'superstar, Jason Bartlett, will join four other recipients of the 2010 Thurman Munson award. The Augusta, Maine native who has won back to back driving titles since moving to Yonkers Raceway, will be joined February 2 by Joba Chamberlain, Lou Pinella, Daryl Strawberry and Chris Duhon.

The Kentucky Derby Raffle is in it`s tenth year, planned and arranged by Gary Piontkowski C.O.O. and his staff which included Steve O`Toole, Gen. Mgr.; Donna Merrick, Cust. Serv./Gift Shop Coordinator; John DeFiore, Cust. Serv./Mutuels; and a backup staff of others.

Each summer the Maine Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association awards scholarships to deserving students who have a connection to harness racing in the State of Maine.

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