Maine Racino Initiative, Question 2 (2011)

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Racino Question
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Type:State statute
State code:MRSA §275-A, §1011, §1020
Referred by:citizens
Topic:Gambling
Status:Defeated Defeatedd
The Maine Racino Question appeared on the November 8, 2011 general election ballot ballot in the state of Maine as a indirect initiated state statute where it was defeated.Defeatedd

The measure would have amended laws governing the deadline for approval of a second racino in the state and allow another tribal racino in Washington County. It proposed to change other language in the laws that governed the construction and location of those racinos.

The measure was sponsored by Sharon L. Terry, according to the Maine Secretary of State's official website.[1][2]

The measure would have specifically changed the distance a racino may be established from its affiliate racetrack from 5 miles to 25 miles. It would have also amended the time frame for local approval of a racino from Dec. 31, 2003, to Dec. 31, 2013. According to reports, the petition that was circulated did not specifically mention the location of the establishment of a tribal racino. Residents had until August 15, 2011 to submit comments to the Maine Secretary of State on how to word the question on the ballot, according to reports.[3]

Election results

See also: 2011 ballot measure election results[4]
Maine Question 2
ResultVotesPercentage
Defeatedd No176,71854.3%
Yes 176,718 44.6%

Results via official election results from Maine Secretary of State website.

Text of measure

Ballot language

The language that voters saw on the ballot read:[5]

"Do you want to allow a slot machine facility at a harness racing track in Biddeford and at a harness racing track in Washington County?"

Title

The title of the measure read as follows:[1]

An Act To Amend the Laws Governing the Deadline and Conditions for Municipal Approval of a Second Racino and To Allow a Tribal Racino in Washington County.

Summary

The summary of the measure read as follows:[6]

This initiated bill allows the Gambling Control Board within the Department of Public Safety to accept applications for a license to operate slot machines from any person who is licensed to operate a commercial track located at or within a 25-mile radius of the center of a commercial track that conducted harness racing with pari-mutuel wagering on more than 25 days during calendar year 2002 or from any person who is licensed to operate a commercial track that is owned and operated by one or more federally recognized Indian tribes located in this State if the operation of these slot machines is approved by the voters of the municipality in which the commercial track to be licensed is located by referendum held before December 31, 2013. Current law requires the commercial track to be located at or within a 5-mile radius of the center of a commercial track that conducted harness racing with pari-mutuel wagering on more than 25 days during calendar year 2002 and requires the referendum to have been held before December 31, 2003.
The initiated bill changes the definition of "commercial track" to include a harness horse racing track licensed to conduct harness horse racing with pari-mutuel wagering that is owned and operated by one or more federally recognized Indian tribes located in this State, is located more than 90 miles from the nearest existing commercial track that operates slot machines, is within 45 miles of the operating tribe's Indian reservation and conducts racing on more than 25 days each calendar year after having been granted a license to conduct harness horse racing.
The initiated bill provides that a license to operate slot machines at a commercial track may not be denied on the basis of the proximity of the commercial track to any other gambling facility if the commercial track was licensed and operating before the other gambling facility was licensed, unless the commercial track proposes to relocate or has relocated closer to the other gambling facility after the other facility was licensed and operating.
The initiated bill permits the Gambling Control Board to allow an additional 1,500 slot machines to be registered for each commercial track at which slot machines were not operated prior to January 1, 2010 and at which the operation of slot machines is licensed after January 1, 2010. Current law limits the total number of slot machines registered in the State to 1,500.

Fiscal note

The fiscal note, in part, read as follows:

Presented below is an estimate of the potential revenues that may be generated from additional slot machine facilities and the subsequent distribution of those revenues. This fiscal note assumes there would be two new facilities established with a total of 2,000 additional slot machines that would generate annual revenue of $32,784,058 for the State's General Fund and $18,253,016 for various other funds. The General Fund would also receive license fees of $564,500 in the first year and $213,250 for license renewals in subsequent years. Annual state costs associated with Inspectors, State Police Detectives, Identification Clerks, contracts for monitoring services and other related expenses are estimated to be $1,462,088. This analysis assumes no significant effect on revenue generated by the licensed racino facility in Bangor. If there is an appreciable reduction in racino revenue, there will be a reduction in the amounts distributed from that facility. The tax structure at the new facilities would be consistent with the facility in Bangor, with 1% of gross slot machine income and 39% of net slot machine income going to the state.

The Preliminary Fiscal Impact Statement can be found here.

Support

The following is information obtained from the supporting side of the measure:

  • According to the group Putting Maine to Work: "This proposal will create 500 good paying permanent jobs in southern Maine and a similar number in Washington County, as well more than a thousand construction jobs. The average job will pay $35,000 and provide health coverage and other benefits."[7]
  • Another argument from the group stated said: "The Biddeford proposal will create the only entertainment facility of its kind in southern Maine. The facility will feature a state of the art harness racing track, resort and entertainment complex. It will attract visitors not only from the immediate area but also from New Hampshire and other states, generating more business for local restaurants, hotels, and other businesses."[7]
  • Biddleford Mayor Joanne Twomey urged the passage of the measure, stating, "It is time to say yes, we want economic development."[8]
  • Supporters argued that there was language in current law stating that new gambling facilities were prohibited from operating within 100 miles of an existing gambling operation. This, according to those supporters, should have been removed by the ballot initiative because a slot facility in Bangor was in close range of the resort casino that was planned for Oxford.[8]
  • Edward McColl, the attorney for Scarborough Downs and for the Biddeford Downs project argued: "I think the most important thing to keep in mind is that racinos have been a tremendous boon to harness racing everywhere they've been tried."[9]

Donors

The following were contributions made in support of the measure:[10]

Donor Amount
Putting Maine to Work $67,297.78
City of Biddeford Ballot Question Committee $81

Opposition

Opponents

The following were opponents of the measure:[11]

Arguments

The following is information collected from the opposing side of the initiative:

  • Dennis Bailey, president of the media relations firm Savvy Inc., and leader at the CasinosNO! advocacy group, stated in a column:
"...our major point still stands – now that the ballot question has been changed, voters will know that they are potentially voting for a racetrack casino in communities within 25 miles of Scarborough Downs, not just Biddeford. That’s important. What this episode really illustrates is that Maine now has such a confusing mishmash of laws and regulations regarding slot machines, casinos and racinos — most of them written by the proponents of these facilities — that it’s a wonder anyone really knows what we’re voting on. Our view is when in doubt, just say no."[12]
  • Bailey later was quoted by reports as saying: "This idea that we can revive harness racing by adding slot machines is really a lie--there's no evidence that that would work. That doesn't mean there won't be a lot of revenue sloshing around for track-owners and operators of off-track betting parlors. It may be keep the ponies running around--the subsidy will keep the ponies running around the track--but at this rate, there won't be anybody in the stands watching them."[9]
  • CasinosNO!, the group against the measure, called the initiative a "bailout for a failing business."[9]
  • The CasinosNO! group stated on their website: "Maine law also doesn’t require casino proponents to make a minimum capital investment for the facility or amenities. This allows casino hucksters to show pretty pictures of what their casino will supposedly look like during the referendum campaign, but downscale their plans after the election, as the Oxford casino promoters have done."[13]
  • The CasinosNO! campaign also stated: "Of the many exaggerated claims that the backers of a Biddeford casino are making, perhaps the biggest one is that their proposal will help Maine’s struggling harness racing industry. Not true. In fact, the evidence shows that if anything another racino in Maine will only hasten its demise."[14]

Donors

The following were donations made in opposition of the measure:[10]

Total campaign cash Campaign Finance Ballotpedia.png
Category:Ballot measure endorsements Support: $67,378.78
Circle thumbs down.png Opposition: $102,875.00


Donor Amount
Penobscot County for Table Games & Jobs $100,000
Casinos No! $2,675
Mainers Against A Rotten Deal $200

Media editorial positions

Endorsements of Maine ballot measures, 2011

Support

  • The Bangor Daily News supported the measure stating: "Because casinos bestow about 50 percent of revenue on government, they are essentially a stealth tax collector. But clearly, it is a tax many are willing to pay. It’s time to stop turning down bids for a Southern Maine and Washington County casino. A yes vote on Question 2 is the right choice."[15]
  • The Portland Press Herald stated in an editorial: "At some point, the state will probably find it necessary to inhibit the growth of gambling -- a casino in Lewiston, for example, would almost certainly be one too many -- but the proposals embodied in Question 2 promise benefits that surpass any conceivable disadvantages. We urge voters to say "yes" to Question 2."[16]
  • The Maine Campus supported the measure, stating: "We urge the Maine community to vote yes on Question 2 on Nov. 8, but be sure to contemplate the importance of instilling stipulations on how many casinos should be sanctioned in the state. Even though the economy is in the dumps, piling easy money into the economic pot in abundance won’t remedy the issue. Washington County deserves its racino by now and Biddeford needs the flair of prosperity just as much as any city or town in the state."[17]
  • The Sun Journal stated: "We support the jobs these two projects would preserve and create and the economic stability it would help bring to the Penobscot Nation. We urge a “yes” vote on Question 2."[18]

Path to the ballot

See also: Maine signature requirements
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Initiative filing

See also: Beginning the initiative process in Maine

Any Maine registered voter may propose a citizen initiative or a people's veto referendum. The voter must first submit a one-page notarized form entitled "Application for Citizen Initiative" or "Application for People's Veto Referendum" to the Maine Secretary of State. The completed application must contain the names, addresses and signatures of 5 Maine registered voters, in addition to the applicant, who are designated to receive any notices related to the processing of the application. The Maine Secretary of State must approve the ballot summary before the petition can be circulated for signatures.[19],[20]

Circulation

See also: Signature requirements in Maine

In order to place the measure on the 2011 ballot a minimum of 58,054 valid signatures were required by January 20, 2011. The number of signatures required by law represented 10% of the total votes cast for governor (excluding blanks) in the most recent election as established in Article 4, Part Third, Section 18, sub-section 2 of the Maine Constitution.

Signature filing and verification

See also: Signature filing deadlines in Maine

The deadline for the Maine Secretary of State to verify signatures for this measure, according to the office, was February 18, 2011. The measure was only one of two Maine initiative efforts to file signatures by the January 20 deadline. The measure was approved for the November ballot by the February 18 deadline.[2][21]

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Legislative review

See also: Maine Legislature's response to certified initiatives

Since the measure's signatures were verified, and because the measure was an indirect initiated state statute, it went to the state legislature for review. Since legislators did not vote to adopt a similar law, it remained on the ballot.[2]

Before then, however, the measure took one step closer to becoming a law in early June 2011, which would have skipped public vote on the issue during the 2011 general election.[22]

On June 6, 2011, the Maine House of Representatives approved the initiative, sending it to the Maine State Senate for a similar vote. Then on June 9, 2011, the Maine State Senate voted in favor of the measure. However, according to reports, Governor of Maine Paul LePage vetoed the bill, saying he wanted voters to decide on the proposal. Since this happened, the measure remained on the ballot.[23]

Timeline

Calendar.png

The following is a timeline of events relating to the measure:

Event Date Developments
Deadline Jan. 20, 2011 The deadline to submit signatures in the state for the 2011 ballot.
Deadline Feb. 18, 2011 Secretary of state validated signatures, placing measure on the ballot.
Election Nov. 8, 2011 General election, where the measure will be presented to voters.

See also

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Additional reading

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Maine Secretary of State, "Citizen Initiative Petitions Currently Approved for Circulation", Retrieved January 3, 2011
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Forbes, "Referendum vote OK'd regarding 2 Maine racinos", February 18, 2011
  3. Portland Press Herald, "Maine Voices: If new racino is approved, why should it be in Biddeford?", August 11, 2011
  4. Results do not add up to 100% due to blank ballots.
  5. Maine Elections Division, "Proposed Initiative Questions", Retrieved July 15, 2011
  6. Maine Legislature, "An Act To Amend the Laws Governing the Deadline and Conditions for Municipal Approval of a Second Racino and To Allow a Tribal Racino in Washington County", Retrieved April 11, 2011]
  7. 7.0 7.1 Putting Maine to Work, "Get the Facts", Retrieved October 26, 2011
  8. 8.0 8.1 Bangor Daily News, "Racino supporters say jobs on the line for proposed Calais, Biddeford facilities", April 4, 2011
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 MPBN.net, "Anti-Gambling Group Questions Viability of Proposed Biddeford Racino", September 12, 2011
  10. 10.0 10.1 Maine Campaign Finance, "Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics & Election Practices", Retrieved October 7, 2011
  11. KJOnline.com, "6 groups come together to oppose more racinos", October 28, 2011
  12. Bangor Daily News, "Devil is in the details of Maine racino bill", September 8, 2011
  13. CasinosNO, "MAINE CASINO PROPOSALS A BAD DEAL COMPARED TO MASSACHUSETTS PLAN", September 20, 2011
  14. CasinosNO!, "SLOT MACHINES NO SOLUTION FOR MAINE'S STRUGGLING HARNESS RACING INDUSTRY", April 10, 2011
  15. Bangor Daily News, "Yes on Question 2", October 25, 2011
  16. Putting Maine to Work, "Our View: Voters should say 'yes' to Question 2 on Nov. 8", October 23, 2011
  17. Maine Campus, "Endorsement: Yes on 2 offers economic hope, but needs restraint", November 2, 2011
  18. Sun Journal, "'Yes' is the ticket this Election Day", November 6, 2011
  19. Form used to apply for an initiative
  20. Form used to apply for a veto referendum
  21. The Maine Secretary of State's office was contacted by Ballotpedia to verify the signature verification deadline.
  22. WCSH6.com, "Rally at the State House in support of racinos", June 8, 2011
  23. Press-Herald, "Senate splits on citizen-initiated gaming proposals", June 10, 2011