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Maine Slot Machines at Commercial Horse Racetracks, Question 2 (2003)

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The Maine Slot Machines at Commercial Horse Racetracks Initiative, also known as Question 2, was on the November 4, 2003 ballot in Maine as an indirect initiated state statute, where it was approved. The measure allowed the Maine Harness Racing Commission to licenses the operation of slot machines at commercial racetracks. To qualify for such a license, a person or entity had to meet certain eligibility requirements, including being within a five-mile radius of a commercial track that has conducted harness racing with pari-mutuel wagering on more than 25 days during 2002. It also had to receive local approval for the operation of slot machines in a municipal election held between December 31, 2002 and December 31, 2003. A licensed operator was required to pay 25 percent of the gross slot income to the Harness Racing Commission. Those funds would be used to help the elderly and disabled obtain prescription drugs, supplement harness racing purses, fund scholarships to the Maine university and technical college systems and other allocations.[1][2]

Aftermath

Nearly seven years following the 2003 vote, some lawmakers questioned whether the measure was implemented as voters expected. In August 2010 Danielle Fox, a policy analyst for the Legislature's Legal and Veterans Affairs Committee broke down the way in which slot revenue was used in the state. Of the $27 million in revenue in 2009, about $1.5 million went to scholarships and $5 million went to the Healthy Maine Fund. The rest, she said, went to accounts to support harness racing. According to reports, more than $11.4 million in 2009 went towards supporting the state's racing industry and agricultural fairs.[3]

Rep. Linda Valentino said, "My concern has always been the revenue we receive from the racino may not be what the voters intended. I think if we add up all of the numbers from 2005 to now, did the voters really intend to be giving tens of millions of dollars -- almost $100 million away -- to these other people that were not listed on the ballot?" State officials said in August 2010 that they plan to continue discussing the issue.[4]

Election results

Maine Question 2 (2003)
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 272,394 52.90%
No242,49047.10%

Election results via: Maine Secretary of State, Elections Division: Referendum Election Tabulations, November 4, 2003

Text of measure

The language appeared on the ballot as:[1]

ME2003Nov Question 2.PNG

[5]

Summary

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

This Act authorizes the Maine Harness Racing Commission to license certain persons or entities to operate slot machines at commercial racetracks. To qualify for a slot machine license, a person or entity must meet certain eligibility criteria and be licensed to operate a commercial track. The commercial track must be one that is located at or within a 5-mile radius of a commercial track that has conducted harness racing with pari-mutuel wagering on more than 25 days during 2002, and must have received local approval for the operation of slot machines in a municipal referendum election held between December 31, 2002 and December 31, 2003. Currently, only the commercial tracks at Bangor Raceway and Scarborough Downs meet the minimum race days requirement. This Act also amends the harness racing statutes to allow commercial track licenses to be transferred or assigned with Commission approval.

Any person or entity that has a valid commercial track license as of the effective date of this Act and otherwise meets the eligibility criteria would be deemed licensed to operate slot machines without the need to file an application. Licenses for slot machines would be valid for 10 years and would be automatically renewable for an additional 10-year term.

Once licensed, the person or entity would be allowed to operate slot machines at the commercial track on any calendar day, without restriction on the hours of operation. No one under the age of 21 would be allowed to play. The Act authorizes the Harness Racing Commission to adopt rules, to issue licenses to operate and to distribute slot machines, to suspend or revoke licenses under certain conditions, and to investigate complaints and alleged violations of the Act. Under the Act, tampering with slot machines and operating or distributing such machines without a license would be a class C crime.

The licensed operator would pay 25% of the "gross slot income" to the Harness Racing Commission. "Gross slot income" means the amount wagered, minus the amount paid out. The Commission would distribute this 25% according to the following formula:

10% to the Fund for a Healthy Maine, to be used for the specific purpose of assisting elderly and disabled adults to obtain prescription drugs;
7% to supplement harness racing purses through a new fund administered by the Commission;
3% to be deposited in the new Agricultural Fair Support Fund established by this Act, of which 60% would be distributed to supplement the purses by those agricultural fairs that were licensed to and did accept pari-mutuel wagers on harness races, while 40% would be divided among all agricultural fairs licensed by the Department of Agriculture;
2% to the University of Maine System Scholarship Fund administered by the Finance Authority of Maine for need-based scholarships to Maine residents attending the University of Maine;
1% to the Maine Technical College System (now called the Maine Community College System) to fund its need-based scholarship program;
1% to the Sire Stakes Fund administered by the Commission; and
1% to cover the Commission’s administrative expenses, of which up to $250,000 may be spent for addiction counseling services in accordance with rules to be adopted by the Commission.
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.

[5]

Maine Secretary of State, [1]

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing the initiative process in Maine

A total of 56,581 petition signatures were submitted to place this measure before the state legislature. After the secretary of state certified the petition, it became known as "Legislative Document 1317," and was referred to the Joint Standing Committee on Legal and Veteran Affairs for public hearing on April 11, 2003. On May 9, 2003, the house of representatives accepted the Majority Ought Not to Pass Report, which was later accepted by the senate on May 12. Since the legislature failed to enact the measure, Governor John Elias Baldacci proclaimed on June 23, 2003, that an election would be held to allow for the measure to be voted upon by the people.[1]

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