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Scarborough, Maine - August 20, 2017 ... The two-year-old trotting divisions of the Maine Sire Stakes program made their fourth and final appearance of the 2017 season at Scarborough Downs on Sunday (8/20); the harness racing freshman leaving town on a high note with one even etching his name on the wall of honor as a divisional track record holders. He'salilbitnoble scored his fourth career win during the $10,272 colt division on Sunday, stopping the clock in a lifetime best 2:02.3 which equaled Scarborough's divisional track record which was established in 2008 by another Maine-bred, Bad Boy Billy. With all the colt's wins featuring a front end trip, driver Mark Athearn promptly steered his charge onto the early lead. The dashing duo quickly benefited as 4 of the 7 combatants rolled off stride before reaching the 1/8th pole, and the rest of the mile was mere child's play for the son of Nobel Venture-Litany Hanover. He'salilbitnoble is trained by Gretchen Athearn for owner William Phipps. Cinamatic Venture (G. Mosher), one of the three trotters to not make a break finished second while Go Full Throttle (K. Ireland) benefited from a fault-free trip to grab third. Team Athearn then doubled their stakes pleasure as another member of their roster, Wild Bandita took top honors in one of two $9976 filly divisions on the program. Just as the front end seat worked magic for her track record holding stable-mate, the strategy proved equally faultless for Wild Bandita as driver Mark Athearn cut the mile and navigated the course, in a lifetime best 2:06.1 clocking en route to securing the filly's third career win. The daughter of Boy Band-Wild Pine is trained by Gretchen Athearn for owner Michael Andrew. American Flambe (M. Cushing) kept her perfect on-the-board ratio intact with a solid runner-up placing while June Carter Cast (G. Mosher) survived multiple breaks to finish third. Pembroke Dancer continued her display dominance on Sunday, effortlessly securing her fifth consecutive victory in a lifetime best 2:05.2 clocking in the other filly division. Driver Heath Campbell confidently steered the CR Power Glide-Spring Laughter filly to the early lead and then commenced to toy with the field, ultimately with no one coming within two lengths of the pacesetter throughout the mile. The remarkable filly, trained by Valerie Grondin for owner William Varney, claimed the lion's share of the $9977 purse, increasing her career bankroll to 29,872. Sweet Amy O (J. Beckwith) finished second while Dualpatwitchywoman (M. Athearn) was third. Scarborough Downs is pleased to present twilight harness racing cards on a Thursday and Saturday schedule at 4:30 PM (EDT) with the Sunday matinee heading to post at 1:30 PM. For more information, visit or visit our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs

The controversial ballot campaign hoping to convince voters to approve a casino in York County has hired the same Washington D.C. consulting firm that helped convince British voters to withdraw from the European Union last year. The commissioning of the Goddard Gunster firm is the latest evidence that the campaign, ensnared in an investigation by the Maine Ethics Commission, is planning to spare neither expense nor expertise to persuade voters to approve a third gambling operation in Maine. A new political action committee that formed last month is expected to serve as the campaign apparatus for a casino referendum that has already spent over $4 million just to get on the ballot. The campaign has been dogged by allegations that it hid its funding sources for over a year, and also because, if approved by voters, the casino could only be licensed to Shawn Scott - a gambling developer with a checkered past. But the new Progress for Maine PAC has also paid over $80,000 to Goddard Gunster, a D.C. based consultant that boasts winning track record in referendum campaigns, including the so-called Brexit campaign. Goddard Gunster received a lot of credit for the success of the campaign to convince British voters to leave the European Union, which some believe may also have foreshadowed the election of Donald Trump. The firm's CEO, Gerry Gunster, talked about the similarities between Brexit and Trump's victory with the BBC in November. "People thought, 60 percent of them, that the country was heading in the wrong direction. In the United States that number was right about the same. That's the same number in two different countries that change is going to happen. And it did," Gunster said. Whether Gerry Gunster will be as involved in the Maine campaign as he was in Brexit is unclear, as is the involvement of the firm that claims a 90 percent success rate in referendum campaigns - including a 2012 victory in which it aligned with the beverage industry to beat back Mayor Michael Bloomberg's ban on large soda containers. So far the firm has been paid primarily for social media and website development services - key components in a modern campaign. The firm also has a Maine connection. One of its partners, Dwayne Bickford, is the former executive director for the Maine Republican Party. To this point, the casino campaign has been mired in negative news coverage over its unconventional tactics and an ongoing probe by the Maine Ethics Commission into the sources of its finances, which currently point to domestic and offshore investment firms. The campaign is fighting the investigation, including the commission's subpoena for the bank records of Lisa Scott. Lisa Scott is the sister of gambling impresario Shawn Scott, who first brought gambling to Maine in 2003 with the racino in Bangor. There's currently no organized opposition to the campaign. But that's about to change. While unprepared to talk on the record, an attorney hired by Churchill Downs says it will soon launch its bid to oppose Scott's ballot campaign - Question 1 on the November ballot. Opposition is also expected from the Christian Civic League of Maine and Penn National Gaming - the Vegas gambling outfit that now runs the Bangor racino and slots operation - the same operation that Shawn Scott convinced voters to approve more than a decade ago. By Steve Mistler Reprinted with permission of The Maine Public site

AUGUSTA, Maine — A company apparently tied to China disclosed that it’s backing the campaign for a new Maine casino on Monday — a move likely to frustrate state ethics watchdogs investigating millions in offshore dollars already dumped into the effort. The effort to get voters to approve a York County casino in the November election has been run to date by Lisa Scott of Miami. A company controlled by Shawn Scott, her brother, is the only one allowed to operate the casino, based on the way the ballot question is written. But she may be taking a step back. On Monday, a new political action committee called Progress For Maineregistered to support the casino ballot question. A Maine harness racer chairs the PAC, but the filing to the Maine Ethics Commission says the group that founded it is a New York City company called Atlantic & Pacific Realty Capital LLC. The American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai’s website says that company is controlled by Koa Overseas Consultants, Ltd., a Chinese consulting firm that supports the American EB-5 program, which provides green cards to foreign investors giving $1 million in many cases to new businesses. It’s unclear if the backers of the referendum have changed. Shawn Scott, a U.S. Virgin Islands developer, is linked to a network of offshore companies. But Progress for Maine is setting up a campaign apparatus. In an initial financial filing, the new PAC reported $330,000 in debt — almost all of it from hiring political outfits headlined by Goddard Gunster, a Washington, D.C.-based firm that works on state ballot initiatives. It lists a not-yet-operational website in another ethics filing. Rumiko Yoneyama, the registered agent for a company called Progress For Maine that formed here last month, declined comment when reached late Monday night. She’s listed as the general counsel for the California-based American General Corporation in the financial filing. Lisa Scott and Cheryl Timberlake, a lobbyist who runs Lisa Scott’s political committee, didn’t respond to an email requesting comment. So far, the campaign has been controversial: The ethics commission voted in June to probe the bid’s funding after Lisa Scott disclosed that $4.3 million in campaign funds that filings initially said came from her came from a company controlled by her brother and a Japanese company — in apparent violation of Maine law. That Shawn Scott-controlled company — Las Vegas-based Capital Seven, LLC — would operate the new casino. He ran a successful 2003 campaign that persuaded voters to allow slots at a Bangor facility. But he sold it for $51 million in 2004 without getting a license to operate in Maine after a damning regulatory report. It became Hollywood Casino. Bridge Capital, a Scott company in the U.S. Pacific commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, had a casino seized and sold by Laos in 2015. It was behind a failed Massachusetts referendum in 2016 that agreed to pay $125,000 in penalties for concealing contributions. It also runs its own EB-5 offshoot. That program has long been criticized over cases of corruption and poor coordination with local officials. But it has been used more since the 2008-09 recession made it harder to get bank financing, the Brookings Institution said in 2014. The new PAC is chaired by Charlene Cushing of Farmington, who the Sun Journal profiled in 2013 as one of Maine’s few female harness racers. She didn’t respond to messages seeking comment on Monday and Tuesday. Her involvement is a political signal: Lisa Scott has pitched the casino as a boon for Maine’s struggling harness racing industry, which would get 10 percent of slot machine revenue under the proposal. By Michael Shepherd Reprinted with poermission of the Bangor Daily News

Scarborough, Maine - July 30, 2017 ... The three-year-old filly pacing division of the Maine Sire Stakes program anchored the Scarborough Downs harness racing card on a picture perfect mid-summer afternoon and quite fittingly, Pembroke Perfect continued to flaunt her winning ways on Sunday (7/30). The prolific filly grabbed the lion's share of the $10,017 stakes purse as the daughter of Western Maverick-Perfect Launch scored her fourth seasonal win from four seasonal starts, in the first of two state-bred events for sophomore fillies. Driver Heath Campbell confidently guided the streaking filly to an early lead and then never once twitched a muscle en route to an in-hand glide to the finish line, while the Valerie Grondin trainee posted her fourth consecutive charted line to feature only the number one at each and every pole. The imposing filly, owned by the tandem of William Varney and Lynn-Marie Plouffe, tripped the tele-timer in a fleet 1:58.1. Arabella (N. Graffam) closely stalked the pacesetter throughout the mile to earn the bridesmaid share while Dual Pat's Bug Bug (M. Athearn) hit the board for the first time in 2017 by finishing third. Like the birth of spring, Persephonie burst upon the scene in the second $10,016 stakes split, securing her first win of the season through a determined front end strategy. The daughter of Baran Biltmore-Dynamite Donna who previously had been matched up against either the undefeated Pembroke Perfect or the undefeated Meadows Rosebud in all 2017 stakes starts, took full advantage of Sunday's hidden class relief to the secure the 2:00 score, with driver Heath Campbell claiming his second stakes win of the afternoon. Persephonie is owned and trained by Kevin Switzer. CBF Sunshine (E. Davis Jr.) tracked throughout the mile to secure the runner-up placing while Poocham Princess (G. Mosher) rallied for the show. Maine Sire Stakes action returns to Scarborough Downs on Saturday (8/5) afternoon as the two-year-old trotting divisions take center stage. Scarborough Downs is pleased to present twilight harness racing cards on a Thursday and Saturday schedule at 4:30 PM (EDT) with the Sunday matinee heading to post at 1:30 PM. For more information, visit or visit our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs  

Scarborough, Maine - July 20, 2017 ... The three-year-old filly pacing division of the Maine Sire Stakes program anchored the harness racing card at Scarborough Downs on Thursday (7/20) and while hopes for success were high among the 12 fillies entered, two dominant forces continued to rack up the wins, much to the delight of their owners but to the chagrin of the competition. Meadows Rosebud remained perfect as a sophomore as she extended her current win streak out to three in a row in the first of the two stakes splits. Guided by driver Eddie Davis, Jr for trainer Ralph Anderson, the daughter of Western Maverick-Rose Of Aquamarine engaged in an insistent sort of campaign on Thursday, bullying her way through three-wide traffic from the start, gaining command after flashing a sizzling 27.4 clocking at the quarter-pole, throttling down that early speed to conserve energy, and then fending off all challenges en route to posting a seasonal best 1:57.4 race time. Meadows Rosebud, who claimed the lion's share of the $10,241 purse, is owned by Lorraine O'Connor. Arabella (D. Campbell) repeatedly hounded the pacesetter before settling for an encouraging runner-up placing. Persephone (H. Campbell) rode the pylons to the show. Pembroke Perfect matched Meadows Rosebud in their pursuit of the perfect season by throwing in yet another dominating performance in the second $10,242 stakes division. Hustled confidently to the early lead by driver Heath Campbell, the filly was never seriously threatened as she strode majestically twice around the half-mile oval. The win was the third of the season for the daughter of Western Maverick-Perfect Launch who is trained by Valerie Grondin for the ownership group of William Varney and Lynn-Marie Plouffe. More impressively though, the win marked the 9th consecutive victory lap for the 2016 freshman pacing champion, a string of wins that remarkably began exactly one year ago to the day. CBF Sunshine (E. Davis Jr) completed a great day at the races for the Ralph Anderson stable by finishing second. Spoxy's Girl (D. Campbell) aggressively secured the show dough. Maine Sire Stakes action returns to Scarborough Downs on Sunday (7/23) afternoon as the two-year-old trotting divisions revisit the seaside oval. Scarborough Downs is pleased to present twilight harness racing cards on a Thursday and Saturday schedule at 4:30 PM (EDT) with the Sunday matinee heading to post at 1:30 PM. For more information, visit or visit our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs  

Scarborough, Maine - June 30, 2017 ... The guardians of the Maine Sire Stakes program, let loose their freshman colt combatants, to frolic along the seaside oval at Scarborough Downs on Friday (6/30), as the harness racing two-years-olds made their second career stakes starts following up on last weekend's Bangor debut. Thirteen colts and geldings were split into two divisions to be contested for twin $10,000 (plus) purses, in what remains a relatively lucrative, yet somewhat hidden, opportunity along the national sire stakes circuit. Luceman and driver Kevin Switzer, Jr. held sway in the opening split, choosing a front-end assault while leading the field twice around the oval in a lifetime best 2:01.1 clocking. The son of Western Maverick-Perfect Launch deftly made amends for last week's troubled trip at Bangor, which featured multiple breaks of stride, with a picture perfect example of steadiness of gate and fortitude in Friday's Scarborough appearance. Luceman is owned by Florence O'Keefe and KDK Standarbreds and hails from the roster of noted state of Maine conditioner, Gordon Corey. Thankyouallmyfans (E. Davis, Jr.) sat second throughout to secure runner-up honors. Secret Assault (S. Gray) made a bold power move up the backstretch before settling for third. The magic continued for the ownership group of Florence O'Keefe and KDK Standardbreds in the second division, as the consortium doubled their pleasure with their other stable star, Hoppi, who extended his young undefeated season out to two consecutive scores. The son of Western Maverick - Barbara Ann was put to the sternest test of his young career as he took determined air in the final panel en route to a brand new 1:58.4 speed standard, but proved more than up to the challenge when the dust had settled. Hoppi, who is trained by Kevin Switzer, Sr., gave driver Kevin Switzer, Jr his 5th win on the program. Mylastdime (S.Gray) rallied to secure second while Twelve (E. Davis Jr) dropped back under pressure to finish third. Maine Sire Stakes action returns to the Downs on Sunday (7/2) as the two-year-old trotting divisions invade the seaside oval. Scarborough Downs is pleased to present twilight harness racing cards on a Thursday through Saturday schedule at 4:30 PM (EDT) with the Sunday matinee heading to post at 1:30 PM. For more information, visit or visit our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs

Scarborough, Maine - June 29, 2017 ... Maine sire stakes racing made a triumphant return to Scarborough Downs on Thursday (6/29) as the harness racing three-year-old filly pacing divisions took center stage, in twin splits, raced for purses in excess of $10,000 apiece. Meadows Rosebud left a little doubt in the outcome of the first division of state-bred lassies as the three-year-old daughter of Western Maverick-Rose of Aquamarine set sail from the rail, never to look back, while she effortlessly piking her rivals twice around the half-mile oval, before coasting to a 5-length margin at the wire. Owned by Lorraine O'Connor of Bedford Massachusetts and trained by veteran roster-master Ralph Anderson, Meadows Rosebud was teamed to her initial three-year-old victory by driver Kevin Switzer, Jr. and timed in 2:00. Downeast Foxy lady (G. Mosher) followed gamely along for runner up honors while Arabella (M. Graffam) rallied for third. Pembrook Perfect wasted precious little time in laying out her plans for her quest for back to back state-of-Maine Championships, as the Queen of last year's freshman set quickly claimed her customary front-end seat, to impressively tally her 9th career victory, timed in 2:00, as she launched her sophomore campaign in picture perfect fashion. The daughter of Western Maverick-Perfect Launch was driven to victory by Heath Campbell for trainer Valerie Grondin, much to the delight of co-owners William Varney and Lynn-Marie Plouffe. Persephone (K Switzer, Jr) stalked throughout while settling for second place honors, while CBF Sunshine (E. Davis, Jr) mounted a credible rally for third. Maine sire stakes action returns to Scarborough Downs Friday afternoon with the two-year-old pacing colt division taking center stage, starting with a 4:30 PM post time. Scarborough Downs is pleased to present twilight harness racing cards on Thursday through Saturday at 4:30 PM (EDT) with the Sunday matinee heading to post at 1:30 PM. For more information, visit or visit our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs    

Scarborough, Maine - June 24, 2017 ... Just as June heralds the beginning of summer, the arrival of Maine Sire Stakes season marks a certain regeneration of hope and a renewal of vigor, as anxious harness racing breeders, owners, trainers and grooms bring their young equine charges to the raceway for the very first time. Under ideal twilight conditions on Saturday (6/24) the freshman filly pacers were the first of the Maine Sire Stakes combatants to arrive at Scarborough Downs this season. They were split into near-twin divisions and sent post-ward for purses of $10,007 and $10,182 respectively Shes A Maverick responded handsomely at every asking in the first stakes division as the daughter of Western Maverick-Fiber Art held off a determined cavalry charge en route to scoring her her first career victory, timed in an in-hand 2:04, much to the delight of her owner, Carolyn Corso of Henderson, Nevada. Driver/trainer John Nason pushed many of his filly's buttons on Saturday with the freshman pacer responding like a veteran campaigner at every asking. When urged to leave from the gate, she quickly made the top. When Nason reined her back to get a parked horse out of his way, she graciously complied. When asked to retake the lead at the half, she accomplished the task so quickly it hardly seemed real. The effort was, all in all, a very polished performance for a filly making only her second career start. Little Honey Badger (M. Graffam) threw in a strong rally bid to secure runner-up honors, while A Thousand Wishes (G. Mosher) held firm for the show. With her premier victory lap now practiced and perfected, Shes A Maverick sets her sights on the summer horizons here in Maine. With nine more $10,000 stakes elimination rounds and a rich $50,000 freshman final in wait in September, who can blame her? Saturday's second stakes division saw JustCallMeDee extend her unbeaten record out to a perfect two for two after seemingly pushing the starting gate out of her way while staking her claim for the early lead. She and driver Mark Athearn had everything their own way until Pembroke Passionly (H. Campbell) took flight to engage as they approached the 3/4-mile station and from that point home the dashing divas matched strides to the wire with Just CallMe Dee extending out to a narrow 3/4-length advantage at the finish. A daughter of Deuce Seelster-Justcallmerosie, JustCallMeDee is owned by William Phipps of Yarmouth, Maine. Pembroke Passionly held for the place while Where Does Time Go (E. Davis, Jr.) finished third. Scarborough Downs is pleased to present twilight harness racing cards on Thursday through Saturday at 4:30 PM (EDT) with the Sunday matinee heading to post at 1:30 PM. For more information, visit or visit our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs  

In the 14 years since Maine voters approved the Hollywood Racino referendum for Bangor, over $112 million dollars has been directed to the state’s harness racing industry. The original referendum dedicated 11 percent of net slot machine revenues to harness racing and agriculture fairs, with additional funds to be set aside for prescription drugs for the elderly plus college scholarship funds. Unfortunately, the terms were later altered and 22 percent of slot machine revenue became dedicated to harness racing. Since that time, the number of licensed Maine horse racing owners has fallen 40 percent, betting on Maine horse racing has fallen 57 percent, while the number of mares bred for racing is down 44 percent, with many horses racing here owned by large out-of-state interests that reap the majority of the purses. Scarborough Downs, the state’s largest harness racing facility, is currently for sale as owners describe “dwindling profits, shrinking attendance, increasing competition from casinos, aging facilities, plus controversies within the industry.” Critics cite “functional obsolescence and deferred maintenance” as other issues as Scarborough Downs has received over $13 million in slot revenue, while claiming to lose $13,200 every day the track operates. Bangor Raceway, which features sulky races five months of the year — its largest event in the past 12 months was a snowmobile race — is no longer necessary justification for Hollywood Slots. Now, as the “racino” regularly simulcasts horse races from all over the country. The saddest part of watching this industry’s decline is that legislators subsidized harness racing with little, if any, oversight, giving on average, $9.3 million a year to tracks, breeders and the industry to do whatever they wished. The results question the wisdom of those acts, as well as the intentions of some of the industry’s key individuals. At a recent hearing before Rep. Louie Luchini’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, Harness Racing Commission Executive Director Henry Jennings tried to explain a confusing industry report thusly: “I was hoping that you wouldn’t ask me about these two pages.” Without controls, measurements or competition, incompetence and corruption are likely to exploit “free” money as morality becomes a short commodity. While no one alleges malfeasance here, citizens are left to wonder why so many hands in such a lucrative cookie jar have benefited so few, with little to show for such large sums of money. At the very least, it is another sign of how not to govern. In a state with chronic social demands for taxpayer dollars, has the distribution of casino takes helped this former family industry or forestalled the inevitable? “Yes, there are benefits … whether or not the benefits outweigh the costs is the question,” Luchini stated. Taxpayers expect government to be good stewards of all monies taken in by the state and its institutions. When the money is easy and free, suddenly more people “will need it.” Is it unreasonable to expect that we simply cannot give tax monies to every idea? Reprinted with permission of The Ellsworth American

Scarborough, Maine – April 28, 2017 … Horse supply issues in the state of Maine have made necessary the decision to cancel the Scarborough Downs harness racing card that had been scheduled for Thursday May 4th. Live harness racing will be conducted this weekend on Saturday (4-29) and Sunday (4-30) with post time set for 1:30 PM. The following weekend, the Downs will race on Saturday May 6th (Kentucky Derby Day) with a special post time of 2:00 PM, and on Sunday at the normal 1:30 post. For more information, visit or visit our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs

KITTERY, Maine — A York County casino could be in the cards for southern Maine courtesy of a citizen initiative slated to be on the November ballot. The group Harness Racing Jobs Fairness LLC, based in Augusta, introduced the citizen petition in December and the secretary of state certified it Jan. 23. This measure would allow for a single casino or slot parlor to be constructed in a town willing to host it in York County. The Legislature has the ability to vote on the bill sometime between now and the November election. Historically, the Legislature has declined to vote on citizen petitions and usually allows them to go before the voters. According to the ballot initiative, 10 percent of net income from slot machines, and 9 percent of net income from table games would be earmarked for the Maine Department of Education. Smaller fractions are to be set aside for the Penobscot Nation and Passamaquody Tribe, higher education in Maine, agriculture, drug addiction programs, the "Fund to Encourage Racing at Maine's Commercial Tracks," and several other entities. Both the Penobscot Nation and Passamaquody Tribe did not return multiple phone calls asking what they would be doing to receive 1 percent of net slot income under the proposed legislation. One element that troubles opponents of the casino is the stipulation that 10 percent of net slot income would be given to the harness racing industry. "This bill is written like people in York County care about saving this gambling industry from a bygone era," said Jenny Freeman, a Kittery resident who was a founding member of the Casinos No political action committee in 2003. "It simply can't support itself anymore." Harness Racing Jobs Fairness is associated with Las Vegas casino developer Shawn Scott. Scott's associates would stand to come away with 61 percent of the net gaming revenue for a York County facility. In 2014, the gaming management company White Sands Gaming published a report for the Maine Legislative Council that arrived at the conclusion that Maine could support another casino, and wrote, "Based on demographics including population, income, age and propensity to game this facility should be located in southern Maine (Maine beaches) with close proximity and access to Interstate 95. Southern Maine includes not only substantial Maine population but is positioned to draw upon important demographics in New Hampshire and Massachusetts." The Oxford Casino and Hollywood Casino in Bangor netted more than $80 million and more than $52 million, respectively, in gaming income in 2016, with a majority of revenue from slots, according to the Maine Gambling Control Board. Scott was responsible for establishing Bangor's slot parlor in 2003 at the Bangor harness racetrack. He sold the racetrack and parlor rights to Penn National Gaming for $51 million shortly after they were approved. It was Scott's ownership of the Bangor racetrack and casino, or "racino," in 2003, which served as the basis for the language on the proposed ballot initiative in York County. It grants his group the exclusive right to open the York County casino, and reads, "the board may accept an application for a slot machine operator license or casino operator license; to operate in York County slot machines at a slot machine facility or slot machines and table games at a casino from any entity that owned in 2003 at least 51 percent of an entity licensed to operate a commercial track in Penobscot County that conducted harness racing with pari-mutuel wagering on more than 25 days during calendar year 2002." In other words, the referendum would give Shawn Scott the exclusive rights to develop the new York County casino. Harness Racing Jobs Fairness did not return multiple attempts to reach its representatives for comment. Kittery has specific language in its town charter prohibiting the establishment of a casino in town and the only way the charter can be changed is through a public referendum. "It's my understanding that the language in the town charter protects us from the state voting to put a casino in," said Town Council Chairman Gary Beers. "There may be some other towns interested, but any potential casino would have to follow the local zoning regulations of the specific municipality." Tim Feeley, spokesman for the Office of the Maine Attorney General, said since the proposed bill has language saying a willing town would have to either approve a casino by a public referendum or vote by a town's municipal officers, a town like Kittery would not have to worry about the rest of the voters in Maine approving a casino for York County and giving developers free rein over where they would like to put it. However, casinos do not operate in the vacuum of a single community and often have spillover costs that affect surrounding towns, according to state Rep. Mark W. Lawrence, D-South Berwick. "I have a friend in law enforcement who says when you build a casino you need to prepare for OUIs at all hours of the day, since these are a non-stop operations, and they'll bring you free drinks if you keep playing," Lawrence said. "States become addicted to gaming revenue and don't consider the policy impacts. The state essentially becomes promoters of gaming in order to increase revenue." This ballot effort illustrates a concern with Maine's citizen initiative law, which allows individual entities to gain economic advantage through a narrowly tailored ballot initiative and not through the legislative process. "My concern is the citizen ballot process is becoming a process where one group specifically is trying to craft a law to get a special privilege," Lawrence said. "Conversely, then you'll only see one group oppose the measure, in this case it would likely be the Bangor and Oxford (casino) owners." Some fear with more casinos opening, there may be an over-saturation of gaming in New England. Wynn will be opening a casino resort just outside of Boston in 2019 to go along with the Bangor and Oxford casinos in Maine. Wynn paid $85 million for its gaming license, according to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission's application. "Under this referendum, Shawn Scott would pay the state $5 million for the licensing fee, a drop in the bucket when you consider what the developer of the Wynn casino outside of Boston paid," said Freeman of Kittery. "He made a quick $51 million from the Bangor casino in 2003 and thinks we're dumb enough to give him another ridiculously sweet deal." By Alexander LaCasse Reprinted with permission of the site

More money for retired horses would be nice, but perhaps not having retired horses at all is the answer. Colin Woodard’s thorough piece (“Casino funds could offer hope for retired harness racing horses,” Dec. 18) raises another issue: subsidizing a dying business. Maine’s harness racing industry continues in steady decline despite an $8.44 million taxpayer subsidy in 2015 and similar annual allocations from slot machine revenue since 2005. The continuous financial outlay is further called into question, given the well-documented checkered history of harness racing, one that includes animal cruelty in which fines are an ongoing cost of doing business, drugging has a long and shady past and overbreeding results in many “surplus” horses being sent to slaughter plants in Quebec. The life of a harness racing horse is not some bucolic scene. It’s often miserable for the horses as racers, and after a short career, typically three to five years, they become unwanted. As Woodard notes: “It’s the uncomfortable secret of Maine’s harness racing industry: Each year, some 200 horses end their racing careers at ages 3 to 14, but will live to be 30.” The industry has always needed an outlet to rid itself of animals it deems as unproductive. The article begins with a description of the awful condition of Yankee, a 10-year-old racehorse bound for the slaughterhouse by his previous owner, but saved by a rescue. With Scarborough Downs likely to close this year (further indication of a industry in free fall), the Maine Harness Racing Commission finds itself with $3 million of the track’s annual subsidy. A proposal to use some of that money for the care of these young, retired horses is long overdue. As Robyn Cuffey, respected re-trainer of racehorses, told Woodard: “I’m still trying to figure out why the people who made all the money off these horses are not putting a dime back into taking care of them afterward.” State Rep. Don Marean of Hollis claims that such a proposal is a “pipe dream” and that any unallocated funds will be diverted to pay the operating costs of the harness racing commission. A Maine Harness Horsemen’s Association lobbyist, spokesperson and board member, Marean also frequently mentions that the commission donates $5,000 for distressed horses – less than 1 percent of the $8.4 million subsidy. This would have been a perfect time for a much-needed public relations boost to embrace a minimal allotment and recognition of the need, but the industry instead showed its real hand again. Marean declared: “The numbers you are getting are fabricated on emotion and the need of some rescues looking for monetary support.” It is all about money – these magnificent animals are treated as a disposable commodity. Marean, who led the opposition to an anti-horse slaughter bill in 2013, claims in the article, “The entire industry is struggling to stay afloat with the competition from the casinos and … online gambling.” These same sentiments were expressed by Sharon Terry, owner of Scarborough Downs, when she had requested further subsidies for the track. All of this raises the larger question: Isn’t now finally the time for our state legislators to examine the merits (or lack thereof) of the state funneling millions of taxpayer dollars into an outdated, inhumane, discredited and dying industry that has shown a precipitous decline for decades, despite the state’s significant financial attempts to revitalize it? Yes, a fund to help retired racehorses would be great, but not having retired racehorses is better. The harness racing industry’s struggles are anything but new. In the early 1990s, the industry was in full panic: Business as measured by the live handle (the total amount waged on harness racing) was down over 30 percent, from $45.2 million in 1987 to $29.8 million in 1991. The solution to this free fall? Off-track betting parlors: neighborhood pubs for fans to gamble on races by live TV. OTB parlors were touted at the time as the salvation of the harness racing industry, but 25 years later, both harness racing and off-track betting are withering, with revenues down now to just a scant $4 million. Then slot machine revenue allocation was implemented to “rescue” the industry yet again. Since it opened in 2005, Hollywood Slots has distributed over $80 million in slot machine profits to the harness racing industry, directly and indirectly. The infusion of revenue as boosted purses and encouraged horse owners to invest in faster horses, but attendance and money wagered on harness racing have continued to decline. With so many other significant state financial needs, it remains perplexing why the state continues to prop up an activity that is outdated, cruel and has drastically faded in popularity. Moreover, no animal that has served mankind so long, so well, so nobly, and in so many capacities, deserves such a fate. By Robert Fisk Jr., a former state legislator, is president and director of the Falmouth-based Maine Friends of Animals. Reprinted with permission of The Portland Press Herald

Scarborough, Maine - October 15, 2006 ... A large and enthusiastic crowd turned out for Festival of Champions Day at Scarborough Downs on Saturday (10/15) to witness the crowning of the three-year-old champions of the Maine Sire Stakes harness racing program. The expectation of exciting equine thrills reached near fever pitch on the picture perfect autumn afternoon at the southern Maine racing venue, and with nearly $370,000 in purse money on the line, the horse and drivers certainly did not disappoint. Seeley Man capped a lustrous sire stakes campaign by adding the sophomore colt pacing trophy to last year's freshman crown, all the while retaining his perfect 24 for 24 undefeated career win streak. Hustled to the early lead in the $85,233 split by driver Ron Cushing, the Western Maverick - Perfect Launch gelding never felt pressure at any point in the mile as he extended off to an 11-3/4 length margin at the wire. He ultimately stopped the clock in an unhurried 1:55.2, establishing a new divisional track record in the process. "People might have thought we were crazy to spend the amount of money that we did to buy him at the conclusion of his two-year-old season, just to race him in Maine" Ron Cushing remarked, "But I really liked him. Gerry Smith (former trainer) was nice enough to sell him and we were nice enough to pay the price. He's been a very nice horse throughout his career." Now with a career bankroll in excess of $176K, the Heidi Gibbs trained Seeley Man is owned in partnership by Kevin Sywyk, Ben Bill & Will Stable and Florence O'Keefe and was bred by Lynn-Marie Plouffe. Talladega Speed (David Ingraham was second with The Irish Maverick (John Nason third. Western Stepp was another repeat champion on Saturday as the Western Maverick - French Stepp filly earned top three-year-old honors after securing last year's two-year-old championship in a maiden-breaking upset. The win was the 10th of the season for the Western Maverick - French Stepp filly whose career earnings now eclipse the $127K level. Regular pilot Drew Campbell hustled her to her customary front-end seat but was forced to use all his powers of persuasion late as Ladies Love Outlaws (Kevin Switzer, Jr) closed gamely in the $85,233 contest which was clocked in 1:57. "She got a little lazy on the lead today and I was glad to see Junior not fly by me" Campbell said, "But she did hold the other horse off and that's what counts." Owner/trainer James Dunn added, "I was really glad the wire wasn't 30 or 40 feet down the track or we might have got beat. She's certainly earned some good pasture time." Western Stepp was bred in Maine by Dirk Duncan and Sidney Bradley. Ladies Love Outlaws settled for a hard fought runner-up share while Life Is A Short Walk rallied for show. Miss Flaggy Meadow and driver Ivan Davies were also put to a stern stretch test on Saturday, as the daughter of Boy Band - Willing Wind earned the top placing in the $85,201 filly trotting final. She ground out the win in extended overland fashion while withstanding unrelenting late pressure through the lane from Just A Little Evil (Heath Campbell) with the pair reaching the wire nearly in lockstep timed in 2:01.3. "I want to thank breeder Mike Andrew for selling me this horse and Ivan's done a tremendous job with this filly" said owner Jack Kelly of the East Pond Stable, "He's resolved some earlier problems she had through determined experimentation - Ivan really deserves all the credit for her success." "Now I can't wait to watch my son's horse, the Maine-bred Obrigado race in the International Trot at Yonkers", Kelly continued, referring to trainer Paul Kelly, "What a great day for state of Maine harness racing!" Just A Little Evil fell just 3/4 -length short while finishing second. Gonna Kiss Me Or Not (Ron Cushing) was third. Noble Yaz hit a homerun in the $85,185 colt trotting final, pouncing at the ¾-mile marker before extending out to an imposing 4-length margin as driver Nick Graffam triumphantly pointed his whip skyward in celebration. The Noble Venture - Sassy Cathy gelding who was timed in 2:01.1, is trained by Graffam's dad, Michael, for owner/breeder Francis Hanley. "The horse has just been getting better lately" Hanley said, "He and Nick have been melding but the horse just seemed to figure out that he shouldn't be out there fooling around but that he should be getting to the lead and getting the job done. He sure figured it out at the right time!" Dusty Venture (Ivan Davies) settled for second while Pembroke Bada Bing (Heath Campbell was third. With Maine Sire Stakes season has now reaching its successful conclusion, the fall/winter meet will continue at the Downs through the first weekend of December. Live harness racing will be featured weekly on a Thursday through Sunday schedule with a 1:30 PM (EDT) post time. For more information, visit or visit our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs  

Scarborough, Maine - October 13, 2006 ... The Maine Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association and Scarborough Downs will present the harness racing annual Festival of Champions Day on Saturday October 15, 2016 with first post time slated for 1:30 pm. For the first and only time this season, all the top-rated three year-old Maine-bred racehorses will be gathered in one spot, on one day, as the championships of the Maine Sire Stakes program will be decided, and with nearly $370,000 in purse money on the line, Saturday will be the richest day in state-of-Maine harness racing this year. Seeley Man, undefeated in 23 career starts, has been cast in the 'leading man' role, as the sophomore gelding will attempt to add the three-year-old championship trophy to last year's freshman crown in an almost unheard of bid to sweep the table in the ultra-tough arena of Maine Sire Stakes competition. "This is indeed an historic bid" said Seeley Man's breeder, Lynn-Marie Plouffe of Saco, Maine. "A horse may well have remained undefeated at some point during the 40-plus seasons of the Maine Sires Stakes program, but none have done it in recent years. It takes a special animal to pull off such an impressive feat and we are so proud that Seeley Man has represented our breeding farm in such gallant fashion." Seeley Man was born on March 3, 2013 at the picturesque Dupuis Farm in southern Maine and was trained to a perfect 11 for 11 race record by Gerald Smith for owner Florence O'Keefe as a two-year-old. Retaining a share for herself, O'Keefe sold the budding star at the conclusion of that campaign to a partnership which includes Kevin Sywyk of Swartz Creek, Michigan and the Ben, Bill and Will Stable of Carmel, Maine. The gelding has been effectively driven by Ron Cushing for trainer Heidi Gibbs throughout the 2016 season and has now amassed career earnings in excess of $133,000. A win on Saturday would push his seasonal earnings total to over $100,000 - an eye-popping tally for a horse raced almost exclusively in Maine. The horses competing in these finals are bred, trained and stabled here in Maine, and have been competing in stakes races at the fairs and at tracks around the state all racing season. The top eight horses in each of the four divisions will vie for purses of $85,000 each, which are the largest in Maine horse racing history. "We're so excited to be hosting such an important event in Maine harness racing," said Scarborough Downs owner Sharon Terry. "Our commitment has always been to support the farms, families, and fairs of Maine, and this event is exemplary of all of those things." The fall/winter meet will continue at the Downs through the first weekend of December with live harness racing featured weekly on a Thursday through Sunday schedule with a 1:30 PM (EDT) post time. For more information, visit or visit our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs  

Scarborough, Maine (September 27, 2016) ... Scarborough Downs, Maine's premiere horse racing venue since 1950, is set to kick off the fall portion of it's 2016 season on October 14th, featuring live harness racing action on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday schedule with post time slated for 1:30 PM (EDT) daily. Festival of Champions Day will headline the opening weekend action as the Maine Sire Stakes championships for three-year-old Maine-bred trotters and pacers will be contested on Saturday (10/15), with total stakes purses expected to exceed the $350,000 level. The fall/winter meet will continue at the Downs through the first weekend of December with the 2016 closing day scheduled for Sunday December 4th. In addition to live harness racing action, Scarborough Downs features simulcast wagering on all the top north American thoroughbred and harness racing tracks, seven days a week from noon to midnight, in the Inside Track Lounge facility. For more information, visit or our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs    

Scarborough, Maine (August 26, 2016) ... On what, at first glance, appeared a rather pedestrian Scarborough Downs harness racing program, speed quickly became the order of the day as two trotting records for four-year-old trotters were rewritten in impressive style during the course of the Friday (8/26) twilight performance. Tango Pirate, a recent Saratoga import who was up in class off a dominant win last weekend, charged hard from the gate in the opening event with Dan Deslandes calling the shots from the sulky. The duo were never seriously challenged throughout the mile, gliding to victory in a sterling 1:58.1 and eclipsing the previous four-year-old gelding benchmark of 1:58.2 which was established by Names Muscle just five weeks prior. Tango Pirate, the son of Crazed-Celia Bleue is owned and trained by Eddie Fournier, Jr of Auburn, Maine. The standard for four-year-old mares was also lowered later on the Friday card with Cherry Crown Jewel and driver Mark Athearn grinding their way to a torrid 1:57.4 score while demolishing the previous track record of 1:58.3 set almost one year ago to the day by Bryan's Angel. Trained by Athearn's wife Gretchen, the daughter of RC Royalty-Nowerland Kristen is owned by William Phipps of Yarmouth, Maine. Scarborough Downs features live harness racing with twilight cards on Friday and Saturday with post time at 4:30 PM (EDT). The Sunday matinees get underway at 1:30 PM. For more information, visit or our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs           #      

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