Maine Casino PAC Hires Washington Firm behind Brexit Vote

York County Casino - Maine Gambling Law

Penn National Gaming and Churchill Downs Incorporated oppose Shawn Scott’s ballot initiative.

Backers of a third Maine Casino campaign have hired the lobbying firm behind the successful Brexit campaign to help. The controversial York County Casino has struggled to gain support in the court of public opinion.

Proponents of a York County casino ballot initiative hired the Goddard Gunster lobbying firm to help the campaign. Goddard Gunster is a Washington DC-based consulting firm that is given credit for convincing voters in the UK to withdraw from the European Union.

Progress for Maine PAC

A political action committee, Progress for Maine PAC, was formed last month to direct the casino referendum campaign. Supporters have spent $4 million on the campaign so far, but have meet with several setbacks.

The Maine Ethics Commission is investigating the campaign, because it hid its funding sources for over a year. Also, if a third Maine casino operation were approved, the license holder would be Shawn Scott, a casino developer with a shady past.

Lisa Scott’s Bank Records

The ethics commission subpeoned the bank records of Lisa Scott, the sister of Shawn Scott. They believe she might have had a role in moving funds from offshore financiers to the PAC, but those are allegations at the moment. Shawn Scott, who helped bring a casino to Bangor in 2003, is fighting to keep his sister’s bank records private.

The consulting firm, led by CEO Gerry Gunster, received for the successful public relations campaign it advocated in the Brexit vote — where British voters suprisingly chose to leave the EU. A wide consensus of British politicians and financial experts predicted Brexit would be an economic disaster for the UK, but 52% of the voters chose to exit the much-maligned European Union.

Goddard Gunster: Brexit Vote Consulting Firm

The Goddard Gunster firm claims a 90% success rate. It has several high profile victories. In 2012, Goddard Gunster helped the beverage industry of New York City fight Michael Bloomberg’s ban on large soda containers — which was meant to keep people from gaining weight through drinking 44-ounce sodas. Goddard Gunster framed the debate as one of freedom and personal responsibility, instead of public health or liberal policy.

In retrospect, many see the Brexit vote as a foreshadowing of the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. The 2016 elections in the UK and the USA both involved a wave of nationalism and populism to defeat the “establishment”.

Gerry Gunster Compares Brexit to York County Casino

When asked about the York County casino plan, Gerry Gunster compared the referendum to the Brexit vote and the election of Trump. Gunster said, “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.”

At the moment, the firm’s involvement has been minimal. Goddard Gunster was paid $80,000 to launch a social media and website development services for the casino campaign. Those are important aspects of a 21st Century public relations campaign, but do not represent the full involvement the consulting firm had in the Brexit vote.

Goddard Gunster has a connection to Maine. Dwayne Bickford, the former executive director of the Maine Republican Party, is a partner in the Washington firm. It is unknown if Bickford had a role in the selection of the firm for the York County casino plan. Bickford has no known role in the casino initiative.

Opposition to York County Casino

No organized opposition to the York County casino exists at the moment, but it might in the near future. The Christian Civic League of Maine has said it intends to oppose the casino referendum. So has Penn National Gaming, which owns the Hollywood Casino Hotel & Raceway Bangor, the racino which Shawn Scott championed back in 2003. The York casino would be competition for the Hollywood Casino and Raceway. reported that Churchill Downs hired a lawyer to oppose Question 1 on the November Ballot — the York County casino referendum. Churchill Downs owns Oxford Casino, a raceway and slots parlor about 40 miles from Portland, Maine.