Maine Voters Rejected York County Casino Proposition 84%-16%

Maine Voters Reject York County Casino

After 70% of the vote was in, 84% of the Maine electrorate had voted against the casino proposal.

Maine voters rejected a third land-based casino in their statement, as 84% of voters responded they did not want the York County Casino. The referendum was placed on the November 7 ballot as “Question 1”, after tens of thousands of votes were collected.

Supporters of the third casino said it would created jobs in the area, while boosting funds for education, veterans programs, and senior services. Those supporters had spent over $9 million to persuade the Maine public to vote for their initiative.

Opponents of the York County casino, including Governor Paul LePage, said the state was too small for a third casino and the project was motivated by greed. The project had been mired in an ethics probe, with the main supporters being fined a record $500,000 only days before the vote.

Shawn Scott Spoke to Supporters

Shawn Scott, who would have owned rights to the York County Casino, spoke to a group of supporters after the vote in Portland. Scott said to the assembled crowd, “This didn’t go our way, but it’s just how things work out sometimes. We thought and still believe it is a great project for Maine.”

Bill Harsnberger, a featured writer on the Daily Kos ‘Cheers and Jeers’ section and a critic of the York County Casino, was less philosophical. Harnsberger tweeted to Shawn Scott, saying, “Crawl back under your rock, grifter.”

Roy Leonardson Praised Maine Officials

Roy Leonardson, the Republican strategist who led the fight against the York County Casino, praised Gov. LePage, the Maine Legislature, and the Maine Ethics Commission for their opposition to Question 1. Ultimately, Leondardson gave credit to Maine’s officials for opposition a “shady deal”, which would have placed a casino on Old Orchard Beach.

The GOP operative said after it was obvious the ‘No’ proposition won, “Everybody did what they needed to do and that’s why democracy works and to me, that’s a vindication of our democratic process, it really is.”

Shawn Scott’s Maine Casino History

Much of the focus had been on “Shady” Shawn Scott, the man who would have been the main beneficiary of a win for “Yes” on Question 1. Shawn Scott backed a successful casino referendum in 2003 for a casino in Bangor, Maine. As Scott’s business practices and finances were probed after the Bangor casino was approved, he sold the project to Penn National Gaming of Pennsylvania. The Bangor plan became the Hollywood Casino.

The entire turn of events left a bad taste with many Maine voters, so Shawn Scott had a bad reputation in the state after the 2003 scenario. The idea of casino gambling remained popular, though. In 2010, a succesful referendum led to the building a second gaming venue, the Oxford Casino, which is owned by Churchill Downs.

2017 York County Casino Referendum

When the subject of a third casino project began to gain momentum in early 2017, it seemed to be well-funded. Four different political action committees (PACs) supported the plan, as they began collecting signatures to get the casino question on the November 2017 ballot.

Then voters began to learn that Shawn Scott and his company, Capital Seven, were to be the beneficiaries of the ballot initiative. The Portland Press Herald reported that Lisa Scott, the sister of Shawn Scott, had bankrolled the four PACs. When Maine officials began to probe, they learned that Shawn Scott had bankrolled Lisa Scott.

Lisa Scott’s Role in ‘Question 1’

Lisa Scott withdrew from the public relations campaign. New PACs were formed to back the ballot initiative, but the Maine Ethics Commission had trouble learning about the donor list for the new PACs. Shawn Scott’s associates mainly were foreign contributors, with one group’s address simply described as “Asia”.

Because the paperwork for the political contributions was filed after the deadline — and because the ethics commission became convinced they were being stonewalled — they imposed a $500k fine on the various PACs which pushed the ballot initiative. The fine was almost 10 times the previous record. A request to wait until after the vote to impose fines also was rejected.