Campaign to expand gambling kicks off

6:58 PM, Sep 19, 2011   |    comments
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BANGOR, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- As the November election approaches, a new campaign to expand gambling in Maine began Monday.

The Yes on 2, Putting Maine to Work campaign asks voters to support Question 2 on the ballots.

Question 2 asks: 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?

The measure would allow for racinos to be built in both locations.

Developers say the new facility would create 800 construction jobs and 500 full-time jobs once the racino opens.

"We need jobs, we need investment dollars, and we need to treat every business opportunity the same," said Harold Clossey from the Sunrise County Economic Council.

Job creation is a concern in Washington County.

Joseph Socobasin, Chief of the Passamaquoddy Indian Tribe in Washington County, said unemployment numbers are too high.

"The unemployment rate in Washington county is in double digits, and on the reservation it's up over 65 percent. It's actually getting closer to 70 percent," Socobasin said.

It's not the first time the Passamaquoddy Tribe has brought the gambling issue to the ballot.

Chief Socobasin has been campaigning for gambling facilities since 2002. In 2007, they lost by 10 thousand votes.

He's hoping that joining a state-wide campaign like this one will create the support they need.

But those who oppose gambling expansion are campaigning for a different result.

"We just need to step bakc a little bit, and give [gambling] a little more time to see if this works for Maine," said Matthew Boucher, a member of No More Casinos Maine.

"The expansion is happening too quickly," he said.

State Representative Tyler Clark agreed, saying there is such a thing as having too many places to gamble.

"If we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed with casinos, it could be harmful," Clark said. "It's important for people not to hink that this is the magic bullet that will save us from a bad economy."

Clark said voters should wait to see how the newest casino in Oxford fares before allowing more expansion.

He also warned that the new casinos and racinos would steal competition away from each other and hurt profits, rather than help the economy.

But according to developer Tom Varley of Ocean Properties, Ltd., the gambling market will "self dictate."

"We expect [gambling expansion] to be a successful venture," said Varley.

But it will only be successful if voters say "yes" to Question 2 in November.


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