Maine voters overwhelmingly reject proposal for 3rd casino

Maine voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected a proposal backed by an out-of-state gambling entrepreneur for a third casino in the state.

Supporters argued that the casino, sought for southern Maine, would create jobs and provide money to boost education and help veterans, seniors and others. But critics called it a shady deal aimed at benefiting Shawn Scott and his company Capital Seven, which bankrolled the campaign.

The referendum was worded in such a way that only Scott or one of his entities could run the casino.

Speaking in Portland, Scott insisted that the project was a good deal for Maine, and he thanked those who supported his effort.

"This didn't go our way, but it's just how things work out sometimes," Scott said. "We thought and still believe it is a great project for Maine."

Casino critic Bill Harnsberger chided Scott for spending millions of dollars on the lost effort. He tweeted: "Crawl back under your rock, grifter."

Scott previously financed a successful referendum to create the state's first casino, in Bangor, in 2003. He sold out to Penn National Gaming when questions were raised about his financial dealings, associates and lawsuits. The Oxford Casino became Maine's second casino after another referendum in 2010.

The latest casino effort was not without controversy.

The Maine ethics commission launched an investigation in June and imposed $500,000 in fines, a record in Maine, against four pro-casino committees for missing deadlines for filing disclosures that accurately reflected who was funding the campaign.

Republican Gov. Paul LePage said that the proposal was motivated by greed and that a state with 1.3 million people couldn't support a third casino. He called it "another case of big-money, out-of-state interests using Maine voters to get a sweet deal."

All told, more than $9 million was spent in support of the casino, according to campaign finance reports. A pro-casino political action committee hired the consulting firm that helped persuade United Kingdom voters to leave the European Union.

The anti-casino effort was largely funded by the Oxford Casino, which could've seen some business siphoned away by a new casino.

Also on Tuesday, Maine residents voted to expand Medicaid to another 70,000 low-income residents under the Affordable Care Act, dealing a rebuke to LePage, who has vetoed similar proposals five times. They also approved a $105 million transportation bond issue and a constitutional amendment dealing with the state pension system.

In local elections, a proposed merger of Lewiston and Auburn into one municipality was rejected. In House District 56, the husband of the late state Rep. Gina Mason, a Republican, won a special election to fill the remainder of her term.