Casino backer withdraws from Maine initiative
In Maine, a Florida real estate developer that is one of the main backers of an effort to bring a third casino to the northeastern state has reportedly withdrawn from the campaign amid increasing scrutiny surrounding the source of $4.3 million that was utilized to fund a successful initiative to have the issue placed before voters.
According to a report from the Portland Press Herald newspaper, Miami-based Lisa Scott handed over the cash to a group that managed to collect 61,000 signatures earlier in the year so as to have the third casino issue decided by voters via an upcoming November ballot referendum.
Scott is the sister of controversial gambling entrepreneur Shawn Scott, who was instrumental in organizing a similar referendum more than ten years ago that authorized a casino for the state’s third largest city, Bangor. However, immediately after winning at the ballot box, he reportedly sold the new license to casino and racetrack operator Penn National Gaming Incorporated, which subsequently opened its Hollywood Casino Hotel and Raceway Bangor.
The upcoming referendum reportedly contains language that would require the operator of the proposed third Maine casino to be majority-owned by an entity that has been “licensed to operate a commercial track in Penobscot County” since 2003. While this would seem to link the initiative to Shawn Scott’s Capital Seven entity, numerous critics purportedly contend that the cash used to fund the signature drive involved loans obtained from Tokyo and Las Vegas-based entities.
This controversy reportedly prompted the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices to launch an investigation into the sources of the funding for the initiative and subsequently issue subpoenas for additional information to Capital Seven and counterpart Bridge Capital.
The Portland Press Herald reported that casino critics allege that Bridge Capital and Capital Seven loaned millions of dollars from unknown sources to a trio of political action committees established by Lisa Scott. They contend that these subsequently re-loaned this cash to Horseracing Jobs Fairness, which then ran the successful signature-gathering campaign.
Jonathan Wayne, Executive Director for the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, reportedly told the newspaper that his group had not been aware of Lisa Scott’s withdrawal and that the move would have no bearing on its investigation.
“One of the compliance issues is whether Lisa Scott filed accurate and complete campaign finance reports on time,” Wayne reportedly told the Portland Press Herald.
Alongside the Hollywood Casino Hotel and Raceway Bangor, Maine is home to Churchill Downs Incorporated’s Oxford Casino and the upcoming ballot referendum will reportedly ask voters for permission to open a similar Class III casino complete with gaming tables and slots in York County, which sits in the extreme southwestern corner of the state.