AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Maine voters will apparently get to decide on three more casinos, before the already-approved Oxford casino is even built. Supporters of a Lewiston casino, a Biddeford racino and a Washington County racino gathered enough petition signatures to send those questions to the voters. But supporters of the Lewiston proposal, in particular, are asking the Legislature to bypass the referendum vote and simply pass the plan now.
The Lewiston proposal is for a casino to be built in a portion of the huge, old Bates mill complex in downtown Lewiston. A conference center would also be built to accompany the casino. Supporters say it would create hundreds of jobs and stimulate other local businesses. They're hoping the Legislature will pass the plan so that Lewiston can start building their casino before the Oxford casino project gets off the ground. That controversial proposal was already approved by voters, but still needs permits from the state before construction can begin. The two casinos would be relatively close to each other.
The other proposal is a two-part effort, with a racino and a relocated Scarborough Downs racetrack to be built in Biddeford, and a separate racino and track to be built by the Passamaquoddy Tribe in Calais. Tribal leaders and Washington County legislators told the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee that Washington County desperately needs the jobs. The Passamaquoddies have been trying for years to build a casino, but have consistently been struck down by either government or the voters.
While the Legislature can legally pass the bills itself - thereby eliminating the need for a referendum vote-it typically does not. Most observers of the process expect the Legislature to vote no, which would automatically send the proposals to a statewide vote in November.