LePage: ‘Greed’ motivates push for new Maine casino

Good morning from Augusta, where the Maine Legislature is closed today because of a storm dropping a wintry mix across much of the state, prompting more than 800 delays and cancellations.

But it didn’t stop Gov. Paul LePage from making his regular Tuesday appearance on WVOM. The news? His opposition to a proposed York County casino that will be on Maine’s November 2017 ballot after signatures were validated on Monday.

The referendum will ask Maine voters to approve a casino with 1,500 slot machines in York County that also would be subject to municipal approval. But the people who would qualify for a license under the law are Virgin Islands developer Shawn Scott and associates.

His sister, Lisa Scott, has already given $4.2 million to the effort and ballot access came after backers had to gather more signatures in light of a judge’s April decision to uphold the state’s rejection of most signatures submitted in early 2016.

Shawn Scott is familiar to many in Maine after companies linked to him bankrolled a 2003 referendum in Maine to allow slot machines at the Bangor Raceway, which he owned.

After a report from the Maine Harness Racing Commission dinged Shawn Scott for sloppy financial practices and lawsuits, he sold the rights to what became Hollywood Casino for a $51 million windfall.

LePage has been mostly silent on the casino issue over the past year. But he has been generally opposed to adding Maine casinos that would compete with those in Oxford and Bangor. He opposed legislative efforts in 2015 to allow a new southern Maine casino.

LePage repeated past arguments on Tuesday, saying Maine doesn’t have “the critical mass” for another casino. But LePage also took a shot at the Scotts, saying, “They are not interested in good public policy, it’s just greed.”

That’s not what casino backers want you to think: On Monday, Lisa Scott released her first statement of the campaign, promising hundreds of jobs and touting the revenues it would bring in.

But with LePage lining up early against them, it promises to be a loud and potentially tough race to win in November.  — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits

  • The U.S. Senate’s top Democrat blasted Sen. Susan Collins’ replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act on Monday. Collins unveiled a plan on Monday alongside fellow Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana that would allow states to keep many provisions of the Affordable Care Act, allow patient-directed health savings accounts or opt out of the federal health care program. But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called it “an empty facade that would create chaos — not care — for millions of Americans,” according to McClatchy.
  • Janet Mills of Maine is among 17 Democratic attorneys general intervening to defend a federal consumer protection agency in court, according to the Associated PressConsumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray’s position is in danger after a federal court ruled in October that the agency’s organization violates the Constitution by not allowing the president to fire the director in most cases. The bureau has recovered nearly $12 billion in relief from the financial sector through enforcement and oversight work, but Republicans have suggested reining the agency in. The group of attorneys general led by George Jepsen of Connecticut said in a federal court filing that their ability to protect consumers would be diminished if the bureau is weakened.
  • The coalition pushing a Maine referendum to expand Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act will submit signatures on Wednesday. It was originally planned for Tuesday, but it was moved to tomorrow because of the storm. Organizers say they have more than 66,000 signatures, which would be 5,000 more than those needed to qualify for the 2017 ballot. — Michael Shepherd

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Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.