Maine Tribal Commercial Track and Slot Machines in Washington County, Question 1 (2007)

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The Maine Tribal Commercial Track and Slot Machines in Washington County Initiative, also known as Question 1, was on the November 6, 2007 ballot in Maine as an indirect initiated state statute, where it was defeated. The initiative would have authorized the operation of slot machines at a tribal commercial track under the supervision of the Maine Gambling Control Board. It also would have authorized the issuance of a high-stakes beano license to a federally recognized Indian tribe to operate games on nontribal land in Washington County, Maine. The slots and beano machines would have been in conjunction with a horse racing track. The combination of a racing track and a casino is known as a "racino." The Washington County Passamaquoddy Indian gambling establishment, if this initiative had passed, was expected to house 1,500 slot machines.[1][2][3]

Election results

Maine Question 1 (2007)
ResultVotesPercentage
Defeatedd No142,45852.25%
Yes 130,164 47.75%

Election results via: Maine Secretary of State, Elections Division, Referendum Election Tabulations, November 6, 2007

Text of measure

The language appeared on the ballot as:[1]

Question 1: Citizen Initiative

Do you want to allow a Maine tribe to run a harness racing track with slot machines and high-stakes beano games in Washington County? [4]

Summary

The following summary of this ballot measure was provided in the Maine Citizen's Guide to the Referendum Election:

This initiated bill authorizes the operation of slot machines at a tribal commercial track. The operation of slot machines at a tribal commercial track is subject to regulation by the Gambling Control Board. The operation of slot machines must be approved by the municipality in which the tribal commercial track is located before the Gambling Control Board may grant a license to operate slot machines to a person licensed to operate that tribal commercial track. This initiated bill also authorizes the issuance of a high-stakes beano license to a federally recognized Indian tribe to operate games on nontribal land in Washington County. [4]

Maine Secretary of State, [1]

Intent and content

The following description of the intent and content of this ballot measure was provided in the Maine Citizen's Guide to the Referendum Election:

Under current Maine law, only one commercial harness racing track that is licensed by the Maine Harness Racing Commission to conduct harness horse races with pari-mutuel wagering, is eligible to be licensed to operate slot machines, and no more than 1,500 slot machines may be licensed in Maine. This Act would increase the statewide limit on the number of slot machines to 3,000 and would allow up to 1,500 slot machines to be licensed at a new type of facility known as a “tribal commercial track.”

To be eligible as a “tribal commercial track,” such a facility would have to be: a) a harness horse racing track, b) operated by a tribe in Maine that was a federally recognized tribe as of January 1, 2005, c) located more than 90 miles away from the existing commercial track that operates slot machines (the Bangor racino), and d) located within 45 miles of the operating tribe’s Indian reservation as defined in Title 30 M.R.S.A. chapter 601. Although there are four federally recognized tribes in Maine, only two (the Penobscot Nation and the Passamaquoddy Tribe) have reservations as defined in chapter 601. A tribal commercial track also would have to conduct racing on more than 25 days each calendar year after being licensed by the Maine Harness Racing Commission to conduct harness racing.

In order to obtain a license to operate slot machines at a “tribal commercial track,” the applicant would have to receive approval, on or before December 31, 2007, of either the governing body of the municipality in which the track is to be located (e.g., the town council, board of selectmen, or city council), or the voters of that municipality voting at a referendum election. The licensing and operation of slot machines at a tribal commercial track would be regulated by the State Gambling Control Board.

Revenues from the slot machines would be distributed according to the statutory formula currently applicable to commercial tracks, with the following variations:

  • the allocations to fund scholarships at the University of Maine System and the Maine Community College System would be dedicated to the campuses in Washington County;
  • an additional 1% of the total gross slot machine income from the tribal commercial track would be distributed to the Washington County Development Authority; and
  • an additional 1% would go to the career and technical education centers located in Washington County.

The Act would also authorize the Chief of the State Police to issue a high-stakes beano license to a federally recognized Indian tribe to operate games on non-tribal land in Washington County. The license could be issued jointly to all federally recognized Indian tribes in the State.

If approved, this Act would take effect 30 days after proclamation of the vote.

A “YES” vote is in favor of the initiative and approves the legislation.

A “NO” vote is in opposition to the initiative and disapproves the legislation. [4]

Office of the Attorney General, [1]

Fiscal note

The following fiscal impact statement was provided in the Maine Citizen's Guide to the Referendum Election:

Presented below is a detailed estimate and subsequent distribution of revenues that may be generated assuming the approval of the host municipal governance body and the successful licensure of one additional commercial racing track and one additional licensed slot machine operator with a total of 500 slot machines on-line in April 2009. This estimate factors in the net effect on the currently licensed facility. It also provides detail on the various General Fund appropriations and Other Special Revenue Funds allocations that will be necessary to implement the provisions of the initiative.

ME2007Nov Question1 FIS Part 1.PNG
ME2007Nov Question1 FIS Part 2.PNG
ME2007Nov Question1 FIS Part 3.PNG


Notes:

¹The Harness Racing Commission within the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources will require additional General Fund appropriations of $76,162 in fiscal year 2008-09 for the costs of 2 part-time positions and operational costs necessary to regulate the new commercial track.

²The Gambling Control Board within the Department of Public Safety will require additional General Fund appropriations of $288,879 in fiscal year 2008-09 for the costs of one additional Detective position, two addititional Public Safety Inspector positions and operational costs necessary to regulate the new slot machine facility.

³Allocations are needed to allow the distribution of the additional dedicated revenue. [4]

—Office of Fiscal and Program Review, [1]

Support

Supporters

  • Passamaquoddy Tribe
  • Episcopal Committee on Indian Relations

Arguments

The Passamaquoddy Tribe campaigned in favor of the measure's passage. The Episcopal Committee on Indian Relations also supported the measure. The committee said that moral objections against the tribe's efforts were, "highly hypocritical and specious given the current prevalence of gambling within Maine." The Indian Relations Committee had 21 members, including six Penobscot members, three of whom were elders.[3]

The committee also cited indigenous peoples' rights to self-determination, freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development, saying,

The Passamaquoddy Tribe has determined that pursuit and development of a racino makes sense to achieve their economic development goals. Neither the State of Maine nor its citizens should hinder the Tribe from realizing their economic development goals. [4]

—Episcopal Committee on Indian Relations, [3]

Opposition

Opponents

  • Christian Civic League of Maine
  • CasinosNo!

Arguments

The official organization opposing the racino measure was called CasinosNo! (dead link) (dead link). CasinosNo! successfully opposed a 2003 statewide measure that would have authorized a slot machine in Sanford. It also helped to defeat referendum votes in Saco and Westbrook in 2003 to make Scarborough Downs a racino.[5] The measure was also opposed by the Christian Civic League of Maine, which was associated with Focus on the Family.[6] Objections to the gambling expansion initiative included:[7]

  • Concerns about gambling addiction
  • Concerns about higher crime rates in areas near casinos
  • Belief that casinos take advantage of poor and less-educated people

Path to the ballot

Question 1 was sponsored by the Passamaquoddy Indian tribe based in Washington County. Approximately 68,000 signatures were submitted to qualify it for the ballot. 50,519 valid signatures were required. In Maine, all signatures are checked individually. Secretary of State Matt Dunlap announced in January 2007 that 51,096 of the submitted signatures had been judged as valid--a margin of just 477 valid signatures.

Once the signatures were certified, the state legislature had the option of passing the legislation without putting it on the ballot, or of punting it to a statewide vote. The Maine state house voted to approve the measure by a vote of 82-60. The Maine Senate also approved the measure, but on a voice vote, meaning without recording individual votes. Subsequently, Governor John E. Baldacci vetoed the measure, and the legislature did not have enough votes to overcome the veto.[8] Hence, the measure went to the ballot, where Maine's voters rejected it.[9]

See also

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