York, Maine casino question backers face fines of more than $4 million

The Bangor, Maine casino that Shawn Scott got the license for - Scott is also the person that will have the license for the York proposed casion. After people voted for the Bangor casino Scott sold hislicense. 

By Ramona du Houx

Several committees formed to put a York County casino initiative before Maine voters are now facing over $4 million in fines for violating state campaign finance laws. On the verge of the vote next Tuesday the question arises as to why outside backers can flaunt the law to push their initiative forward. The most likely knew they would be fined but took that gamble in order to put a proposed casino to Maine voters.

What Maine’s Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices looked at was if public and policy makers had been denied an accurate accounting of who bankrolled the ballot measure, which could lead to a casino license valued at more than $200 million. 

Recommended fines suggested from the Commission could be $1.41 million and $3 million respectively.

Jonathan Wayne, Maine’s Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices Executive Director noted the recommended fines were prescribed by recent campaign finance law changes, including one approved in a citizen’s initiative in 2015, which increased the penalties for campaign finance violations. Wayne said the recommendations were based on the amount of money the campaign had spent and on the fact that amended reports by the ballot question committee Horseracing Jobs Fairness detailing donations and expenses were more than 12 months late.

The five-member commission, which oversees campaign finance disclosure law, voted in June to investigate Horseracing Jobs Fairness, where it got its financing and why it failed to meet finance report filing deadlines. 

The ballot initiative would allow only one company, Shawn Scott’s Nevada-based Capital 7, to hold the license for a York County casino if voters approve.

Shawn Scott won voter approval to add slot machines to Bangor’s struggling horse track in 2003, which started up Maine’s first casino. After that election many voters became dismayed that an advertising campaign during the election promised a great deal of funding for schools — that never materialized. Shawn Scott eventually sold his casino rights to Penn National for $51 million.

A license for a casino in York County is estimated to be worth as much as $200 million.

Shawn Scott and some of his business associates are also funding a political action committee, Progress for Maine, which has spent an additional $5 million on advertising for this election cycle and other efforts to convince voters to approve the ballot question.

Ask yourself when you vote Tuesday if Maine needs another casino, especially one born from dubious beginnings?