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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

BRIDGEWATER, Me. (WAGM) - Harness racing in the State of Maine will ramp up next week. Scarborough Downs has been racing for a little over a month and next week horses will go to the gate at Bangor Raceway. Neal Grass and his family of Bridgewater are getting six horses ready to race (Neal Grass):" We love it and we can do it as a family. My wife, daughter, son and daughter's boyfriend are all involved. It is a lot of work but everybody works together and makes it so it is enjoyable." Grass says they have training and jogging the horses for a couple of months now Grass:" It has been more of a challenge this year because of the excessive amounts of snow. The snow holding on later and then turning into mud. We have managed to do ok. We have missed just four days of training since February. We are going to be ready." Grass and his family have been involved in racing for a few years now. They were always fans of racing and decided to take the next step Grass:" Let's try it we started out with one or two that weren't so good and the last three or four years we have picked up better horses. (Sharon Grass):" We would go and watch the races. We were always curious in the amount of work it was and when we got involved in it we found out is seven days a week." Sharon says there is nothing like seeing your horse win the race and get the picture taken Grass:" We have had winners back to back . It is so exciting you have one coming in from getting the picture taken in the winners circle and you have another one going out to race and then back into the winners circle so it is exciting." They have been trucking their horses to Bangor for training trips the last few weeks and will attempt to qualify the horses next week. Grass:" The last three years we have invested a lot into the business to grow the business. Instead of just doing it as a hobby we are trying to do it as a business." Sharon says that she has developed a real bond with the horses Grass:" For me personally it is the love for the horses first . I love taking care of them love coming out here they are my best friends."   By Rene Cloukey   Reprinted with permission of wagmtv.com

Scarborough, Maine - April 22, 2018 ... Mitch Cushing held the hot hand on the first spring-like day of the harness racing season at Scarborough Downs on Sunday (4/22), the 20-year-old teamster turning up just as torrid as the temperature, while guiding four winners down Victory Lane. Included in the tally was an open-length victory with the trotter, Prince C Hall, fittingly symbolizing Mitch's regal day at the races. Scarborough Downs will proudly feature live harness racing on Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 PM (EDT) throughout 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 14, 2018 … Opening Day of the 2018 harness racing season at Scarborough Downs has been postponed as southern Maine continues to dig out and recover from a fierce succession of nor’easters and blizzards, The opening of the season, originally scheduled for March 24th, has now been pushed back one week to Saturday March 31 with post time slated for 1:30 PM (EDT). Qualifying races scheduled to be held on Saturday March 17 have also been cancelled. “Two major storms with-in the past five days, both loaded with heavy, wet snow have forced the cancellation of pre-meet qualifying races” said Stephen Cobbett, Scarborough Downs Director of Operations, “Without these qualifying sessions it would be impossible to card races for next weekend. Track employees are doing all that is humanly possible to prepare the facility and we are hopeful that Mother Nature will begin to cooperate so that the season can finally get underway next weekend.” Qualifying races have rescheduled for Wednesday (3/21), Saturday (3/24) and Tuesday (3/27) at 10:00 AM. A double draw for the new Opening Weekend will be conducted on Wednesday March 28. Scarborough Downs will proudly feature live harness racing on Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 PM (EDT) through the month of April. For more information, visit www.ScarboroughDowns.com or visit our Facebook page. Mike Sweeney Director of Publicity Scarborough Downs

SCARBOROUGH, Maine (AP) — A pair of Maine suitors is trying to lure Amazon to the Pine Tree State, although one of them is using the bidding process to the make the case for the technology giant to build a smaller project and not the second headquarters itself. The Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority and the town of Scarborough are relying on New England's charm, the state's affordable cost of real estate and a litany of incentives. Both have submitted proposals to the retail giant touting coastal Maine as the ideal place to locate. The redevelopment authority's letter states that it sees its proposal as a satellite facility as opposed to a location for the whole project. "We believe that we could support a large satellite facility for the New England region, as well as a research and development site for drone operations," the proposal states. Amazon's request for bids has unleashed a race by governments around North America to see who can make the biggest promises and offer the largest economic incentives to draw a project that promises to create 50,000 new jobs. More than 15 states and cities, including Chicago, Cleveland and Las Vegas, refused requests from The Associated Press to release the offers they made to the company. Bidders who refused to release information cited reasons such as confidentiality and "trade secrets." But others, including Maine, were more forthcoming. Scarborough, the other suitor, is a town of about 19,000 just south of Portland, the biggest city in the state. The town's proposal states that Amazon could set up at Scarborough Downs, a venerable horse racing track in town. A local group of investors bought the Downs for a little less than $7 million this month and is planning a large-scale rebuild of the property. Scarborough Economic Development Corporation said in its proposal to Amazon that the new owners, Crossroads Holdings, are open to working with Amazon on developing the 479-acre site. Scarborough is touting the location as ideal for Amazon because of the popularity and affordability of nearby Portland with workers. But it's also proposing use of a state business equipment tax exemption, which provides 100 percent property tax exemption for eligible properties. "With Scarborough you will find a progressive community receptive to a transformative project," wrote Tom Hall, Scarborough's town manager, in the proposal. The redevelopment authority's proposal would bring company facilities to Brunswick, a coastal city of about 20,000 that is home to Bowdoin College. The authority was created by the Maine Legislature to convert the closed Naval Air Station Brunswick to new uses. The proposal hinges on the concept of Amazon anchoring the former station as a high tech business complex. The proposal boasts that Amazon would be within 50 miles of two-thirds of Maine's workforce and could get its non-locally produced power from 100 percent renewable energy sources. It notes Amazon employees could take advantage of world-class skiing, beaches and an emerging food scene. The proposal also states that a Maine Department of Economic and Community Development "business assistance package" would have "no legislative hold ups" and include some $200 million in incentives. The AP also sought details on how much states and cities spent to create their bids and then promote them. Both bidders said they prepared their materials using existing staff resources and did not incur outside costs. Officials with both said they haven't heard back from the company. Patrick Whittle Reprinted with permission of NewsTime

The sale of the struggling harness racing racetrack Scarborough Downs, and its 500 acres of land, is now complete. That’s according to Crossroads Holdings — managed by two sets of local brothers, William, Marc and Rocco Risbara III, of Risbara Bros., and Peter and Richard Michaud, formerly of Michaud Distributors — which closed on the land and existing buildings last week for $6.7 million. “This is a defining moment in Scarborough’s history,” Rocco Risbara said in a statement. “We look forward to creating something that brings people together, creates economic growth and builds a sense of hometown pride.” Scarborough Downs harness racing business also has been sold to Crossroads, though the company is not disclosing the purchase price for that piece. Crossroads said the longtime operators of the facility, the Terry family, will continue to run it, and retain the track’s 60 employees. Crossroads officials said they plan to invest more than $20 million in infrastructure improvements as part of a vision for the property that includes a town center with retail and commercial opportunities, along with mixed housing and other facilities. A public meeting with Scarborough’s planning board on the proposal is scheduled for Monday. Reprinted with permission of The Bangor Daily News  

SCARBOROUGH — A group of well-known local business owners Thursday confirmed they have a contract to purchase the 480-acre harness racing Scarborough Downs property. The sale to Cross Roads Holdings, which was first revealed in October, is not expected to be finalized until early January. What was not revealed until Thursday is that the principals of Cross Roads are the owners of Risbara Bros. Construction, longtime developers in southern Maine, and Peter and Richard Michaud, former owners of Michaud Distributors. All have deep roots in Scarborough. In a press release, Rocco Risbara III said, “We care about our town’s future and it (will) be a privilege for us to develop this land.” Few details were available about possible redevelopment plans for the Downs. But the partners said they expect it to be a long-term project, and plan to keep the historic race track open, at least for now. As part of the agreement, Cross Roads Holdings will lease the track back to its current owners and, in the process, preserve more than 60 track jobs. “For years, we sought after prospective buyers that were connected to the community and willing to work toward the preservation of our heritage,” Scarborough Downs owner Denise Terry said in the press release. “The Risbara and Michaud families present a perfect match (and) our family and employees are excited to work with (such) respected, local business owners,” Terry said. Scarborough Downs has hosted harness races since 1950. It also offers off-track betting and holds various special events throughout the year. The Downs has long sought to be allowed to offer other forms of gambling, but a series of referendums that would have allowed slot machines were all defeated. Last spring, Thom Powers led a group of Massachusetts-based developers that specialize in distressed properties and mixed-use projects in a bid to buy Scarborough Downs. That deal fell through, leaving the way open for the Risbaras and Michauds. No purchase price was announced, but according to published reports, Downs owner Sharon Terry had previously asked $7.5 million for the property, which includes a grandstand and clubhouse, barns, half-mile racetrack and outlying land. In speaking of the team behind Cross Roads Holdings, Scarborough Town Manager Tom Hall said it “has a great track record and I’m confident that they will have Scarborough’s best interest in mind as they redevelop this property.” The town is developing a new Comprehensive Plan and redevelopment of the Downs property is a top priority, Hall added. The town’s Long Range Planning Committee was scheduled to have an initial meeting with Cross Roads Holdings on Friday morning, after The Forecaster’s deadline. At Wednesday’s Town Council meeting, Hall called the presentation to the Long Range Planning Committee “the first step in the creation of a master plan” for the Scarborough Downs property. On Thursday, a spokeswoman for the team of developers said it’s their intent to make the master planning process inclusive and open, and they want to get input from residents and town officials. In 2013, Scarborough approved a new development zone for the Downs property, which allows several different uses, from residential to commercial to municipal. “Cross Roads Holding will work collaboratively with the town, residents and end-users to determine the most successful and desirable ways to develop the large portion of land in the center of town,” the press release said. Meanwhile, Scarborough Downs is still part of a long-shot bid by the town to get Amazon’s new headquarters. Amazon, based in Seattle, asked municipalities or regions to submit proposals to build a second headquarters, known as HQ2, that would eventually employ 50,000 workers. Cross Roads Holdings “is currently performing inspections and surveying the land as part of the due diligence process,” the press release said. “When that work is complete, the (sale of the) property will close.” In an introduction letter to the Long Range Planning Committee, the consultant for Cross Roads Holdings, Gorrill Palmer, said it would “be a long-term development project with a 15- to 30-year build out.” The phased development is designed “to incrementally deliver a return on investment, capitalize on market demand and steadily build out a diverse, mixed-use community,” the letter said. By Kate Irish Collins  Reprinted with permission The Forecaster

Scarborough, Maine - November 26, 2017 ... For the 11th consecutive season, a special retirement ceremony was held at Scarborough Downs to celebrate the careers of the grand 14-year-olds who have graced our racetrack over the years. This year, 12 such veteran campaigners were feted, including Ariel, Art's Sake, Chilli NZ (300 starts, 56 wins, 35 seconds, 40 thirds, $466,940) , Cactus Creek, Corky Baran, Devil's Embrace N, (270 starts, 35 wins, 37 seconds, 33 thirds, $257,315) Dreamluck, Fulla Fire, Keystone Stately, Longshaw Hanover, Mcpfast Bluegrass and Super Sydney C. Combined, this grouping has won 466 races and earned over $3.8-million during their careers, while providing countless thrills to their owners, drivers, trainers and grooms. Today, they reclaimed the limelight while visiting the winner's circle one final time to the delight and applause of their adoring fans. What an amazing day to be at the races! Scarborough Downs will proudly feature live harness racing every Saturday and Sunday at 12:15 PM throughout the fall season, with closing day of the 2017 meet scheduled for December 10th. For more information, visit www.ScarboroughDowns.com or visit our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs

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

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — An out-of-state gambling entrepreneur pocketed tens of millions of dollars after his successful referendum to create Maine's first casino in Bangor. Critics say he's poised to do it again. Shawn Scott has emerged as a key backer of a new casino proposal on the Nov. 7 ballot after his sister retreated from her fundraising role amid an investigation over the source of $4.3 million in donations. Critics say Scott is abusing the citizen referendum process by buying his way onto the ballot, much the way he did in 2003 in Bangor. He had quickly sold that casino. "It's a nice trick. It makes him a boatload of money up front and then he can wash his hands of it," said voter Bill Harnsberger, of Portland. Voters will have the final say on the proposal for the state's third casino at a yet-to-be-known location in York County. The referendum is worded in such a way that only Scott or one of his entities could run it. Supporters say the casino would be a boon for schools. Opponents of the referendum are calling it a "wicked shady deal" in advertising. Republican Gov. Paul LePage says the proposal is motivated by greed and that a state with 1.3 million people can't support a third casino. "It's a stacked deck," LePage said. "Once again, Maine's referendum process has been hijacked by big money, out-of-state interests hoping to pull the wool over your eyes." In Maine, the pro-casino Progress for Maine political action committee has enlisted the services of the same consulting firm that helped convince United Kingdom voters to leave the European Union. The casino campaign has reported spending more than $1.5 million on campaign expenses, on top of over $4 million to get the measure on the ballot. Scott's past dealings have been profitable but checkered. His ventures have included opening hotel casinos, racetrack casinos and video poker. But there were setbacks, as well. He's been denied licenses, and sued many times. In 2003, Scott was largely unknown in Maine when he financed a successful referendum campaign to create the state's first casino. He quickly sold out to Penn National Gaming when questions were raised by state officials about his financial dealings, associates and lawsuits. The Oxford Casino became Maine's second casino after a referendum in 2010. Scott shifted his focus to international business efforts before it became known that he was behind a failed casino proposal last year in Massachusetts. The PAC behind that effort was fined in Massachusetts for campaign reporting law violations, and a similar investigation is underway in Maine. Both Scott and his sister weren't immediately available for comment. But he told a radio station that he intends to operate the southern Maine casino, not sell the license. Regardless of who operates the casino, the business would give a year-round boost to what's now a seasonal-based tourism economy in the region, said Jim Albert, a restaurant owner in York County. "Anytime you can get an economic hub such as this, it's a boon," he said. Jenny Freeman, a retiree from Kittery, believes a day of reckoning has come when the rich can usurp what's supposed to be a grassroots petition effort. "It's a bastardization of the citizen initiative process," she said. Critics have found the casino campaign claims to be dubious. The latest TV ads touting Question 1 on the ballot don't even mention the word "casino." Supporters say the casino would create 2,000 jobs and generate more than $45 million in tax revenue. Chris Vermilion, a software engineer from Portland, said he likes to go to casinos. But he has a problem with referendum process being used in a "blatantly cynical" way to profit a handful of individuals. "I'd love for there to be casino in York County. I'm probably as pro-casino as they come. But this particular process, it's sort of gross," he said. David Sharp and Marina Villeneuve, Associated Press Reprinted with permission of the LMTonline site

Scarborough, Maine - October 19, 2017 ... Walter Case Jr., the legendary harness racing driver and state of Maine native, will return to action at Scarborough Downs on Saturday (10/21), nearly eight years removed from his last start in the sulky. He is listed to drive in all eleven races on the afternoon program which will get underway at 1:30 PM (EDT). The best place to witness Case's historic return will be live at the track, but the program will also be simulcast through the Maine OTB network and nationally through the wagering platform, Day At The Track, who is the exclusive provider of the Scarborough Downs live video stream. Case, the eighth leading driver in the history of the sport with 11,038 career wins received a provisional driving license from the Maine Harness Racing Commission last week setting the stage for his return to racing in Maine. Case, who has not raced anywhere since 2008, was grateful for the opportunity to rekindle his career remarking, "Maine is my home. It's where my career started, and I'm looking forward to coming back and competing again." For the last nine years, Case has lived a relatively quiet life, training horses with his wife in Ohio. His racing career all but ended in 2004 when he was convicted of assault and ended up serving four years in prison. Until now, he had been kept out of the sport by licensing authorities. "Everyone deserves a second chance," Case's attorney Evan Fisher said. "The commission's decision is not only good for Walter, but it's good for the sport and good for Maine's harness racing industry." Casey's prowess on the track remains vivid in the minds of longtime harness fans but his return should prove enlightening to younger patrons of the sport who may only be familiar with Case through archives and record books. "How to explain Casey to people who never saw him drive a horse" mused trainer Adam Gray, "The man could make horses do things that even the horse didn't know was possible. He got speed out of horses like no other driver could do. The man had a gift, and now we get a chance to see him try to do it all over again. Casey's return will be a huge boost to harness racing in Maine." "We are happy for Walter and pleased that he will be appearing at the Downs this weekend" said Denise Terry, vice president at Scarborough Downs. "He has always been an integral part of the Maine harness racing industry and a generous supporter of this track and we believe its time to allow him his chance at redemption. The reaction to the news of his return has been overwhelmingly positive and we are expecting a big day at the races on Saturday." Scarborough Downs will proudly feature live harness racing every Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 PM throughout the fall season, with closing day of the 2017 meet scheduled for December 10th. For more information, visit www.ScarboroughDowns.com or visit our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs  

We can't turn down new state revenue, 5,000 jobs, a boost in tourism and help for the struggling harness racing industry. If the lawmakers and citizens of Maine can agree on one thing, it’s that Maine can always use a little more revenue. They don’t necessarily agree on how to raise it, spend it or save it, but with the passage of a budget in July that can reasonably be called austere, everyone can agree that a little more money wouldn’t hurt. Why then would we want to turn up our collective noses at a proposal to raise an additional $45 million per year in tax-free revenue? We are referring to Question 1, the ballot initiative that would create a gaming and entertainment venue in York County. It would be responsible for $248 million in revenue over the next five years, not to mention more than 5,000 jobs. And it will cost the taxpayers of Maine nothing more than the gas it takes to drive to the polls in November. There will be no hidden taxes. If anything, property taxes may go down as a result of this initiative. Question 1 conjures up $11 million a year for Maine’s Department of Education, $3 million for tuition relief, $3 million in property tax relief, $2 million to the General Fund, and more than $1 million for drug education and addiction prevention. This is meaningful revenue coming at no expense to the state nor the citizens of Maine. Casinos already give the state roughly $50 million a year in similarly tax-free returns, and we now have the chance to almost double that. Investment in Maine that produces revenue and other benefits for the state is a good thing. We entered the gaming industry more than a decade ago. Now there is an opportunity to expand on that and help the industry grow further, to the benefit of all. This includes one of Maine’s most beloved, if struggling, pastimes – harness racing. Harness racing has been an integral part of Maine’s agricultural tradition dating back to the early 1800s, and its continued existence is a testament to the dedication and drive of Maine’s horsemen, both past and present. But the industry today is in dire need of new revenue. A 2015 report stated that without new revenue streams, harness racing could find itself staring down at “the brink of viability,” an outcome signifying a tragic loss for horse owners, spectators and the historic fabric of Maine. Again, Question 1 raises its head as a viable revenue stream to help keep harness racing alive. The proposed venue would generate an estimated $10 million annually for harness racing, more than doubling the amount currently given to the sport. More revenue means larger winning purses, which increase competition and in turn bring more spectators willing to wager at the events. Question 1 represents a gift horse for our horsemen and the harness racing industry, one we would be ill-advised to ignore. We currently need new, non-traditional revenue sources. We also currently have a ballot initiative that creates tens of millions annually in a proven non-traditional revenue source. York County’s businesses could use the year-round tourism money, its workers could use the 5,000 new jobs, the budget could use the annual boost, and Maine’s harness racing industry could be in trouble without it. Maine voters can do the arithmetic for themselves – and provide Maine with a huge dividend when they perform their civic duty in November. We are voting Yes on Question 1, and we urge voters across the great state of Maine to do the same. By Tom Saviello, R-Wilton, is a state senator. Lance Harvell, R-Farmington, is a state representative. Reprinted with permission of The Press Herald

The Fryeburg Fair traffic is heavy but moving along nicely, and Woodsmen’s Day was extremely well-attended, thanks in part to the beautiful weather. I arrived on the grounds for an early morning walk and to marvel at the way this huge event all comes together. It takes a lot of people power to pull it off, but every year they manage to do just that. I’m looking forward to the many events that take place each day, including open pig scramble, the two-crusted apple pie contest, and the night show, featuring Cassadee Pope, all happening on Wednesday. Harness racing began on Tuesday and will continue all week. You have plenty of time to place bets on your favorite horse. Shows also continue throughout the week showcasing draft horses, horse pulling, show beef and more. Thursday’s night show features High Valley, and Friday will feature Motor Booty Affair. On Friday, the local kids will make their way to the fair to enjoy the rides, games and food. Don’t miss the fireworks after the night show. Saturday is always a very busy day beginning with the grand parade at 10 a.m., sheep shows, 4-H beef heifer and showmanship events. The days ends with music by Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper. Everything wraps up on Sunday, ending with the 4WD Pull and the big drawing for this year’s Corvette, raffled off by the Fryeburg Recreation Department. The 2017-18 Met Opera Live in HD series opens with a new production of Bellini’s demanding masterpiece, “Norma” this Saturday, Oct. 7, at 1 p.m. at the Leura Hill Eastman Performing Arts Center, located at 18 Bradley St. in Fryeburg. Starring Sondra Radvanovsky as the Druid priestess and Joyce DiDonato as her archrival, Adalgisa, Sir David McVicar’s evocative production sets the action 2,000 years ago, deep the Roman proconsul over a Sicambri tribe of Druids, a moon-and-nature worshipping sect in what would now be Germany and of which Norma is priestess. The natives are restless for war to drive the Romans out, but Norma has been sleeping with the enemy, namely Pollione and, unbeknownst to her followers, has two children by him. Instead of war she prays for peace. Tickets are $26 for adults, $23 for seniors and $18 for students. Tickets can be purchased ahead of time at fryeburgacademy.org/pac, or by calling the box office at 207-935-9232. Tickets will also be available at the door when the lobby opens at noon. The run time for this production is approximately three hours (including one intermission). There will not be a catered lunch before the opera, but coffee and light snacks will be available during intermission. Opera enthusiast Joe De Vito will be hosting his free opera lecture series at the performing arts center on Thursday, Oct. 5, at 3 p.m. On Monday, Oct. 9, be sure to wish my wonderful son Jeremy Johnson a very happy birthday. The public hearing on Industrial Park Municipal Development and Tax Increment Financing District takes place on Oct. 10 at the Fryeburg Fire Station located at 520 Main St. at 6 p.m. Interested parties are encouraged to attend. Voting for the Special Town Meeting on Oct. 12 will be held at the American Legion on Bradley Street from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Happy Columbus Day! By Robin Johnson Reprinted with permission of The Conway Daily Sun  

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