[toc]A proposal to bring a casino to York County, Maine faces an increasingly uphill battle. Advocates of the southern Maine casino are ramping up their lobbying ahead of a November ballot referendum.
According to the Associated Press, Progress for Maine PAC, a group supporting a southern Maine casino, spent over $4 million just to get the initiative on the ballot. More recently, they cut a check for $80,000 to the Washington, D.C.-based firm Goddard Gunster. The firm played an instrumental role for Brexit supporters.
Thus far the firm is only working on modernizing the group’s social media and website platforms. However, Goddard Gunster’s role could increase down the road.
Campaign comes under scrutiny
The casino campaign seems to need the firm’s expertise. Efforts to bring a casino to York County have run into multiple snags.
“To this point, the casino campaign has been mired in negative news coverage over its unconventional tactics and an ongoing probe by the Maine Ethics Commission into the sources of its finances, which currently point to domestic and offshore investment firms.”
There are additional concerns regarding the exclusivity the proposal gives to a single developer. “The only developer who would be allowed to build is Shawn Scott,” the AP reports.
Scott is a familiar name in Maine casino gambling. In 2003, he brought gambling to Maine in the form of a Bangor racino.
Because of the perceived hidden finances, and the no-bid deal given to Scott, the York County casino campaign is currently under investigation by the Maine Ethics Commission.
At the forefront of the investigation is Scott’s sister, Lisa Scott. Scott had her financial record subpoenaed over accusations that the campaign hid funding sources.
Can Goddard Gunster make a difference?
Leaders of the Brexit movement hired Goddard Gunster to assist with its campaign. The efforts eventually led to the United Kingdom voting to exit the European Union. The surprising victory increased Goddard Gunster’s reputation. Many saw the firm as an integral part of Brexit’s passage.
According to the Maine Public, Goddard Gunster “claims a 90 percent success rate in referendum campaigns – including a 2012 victory in which it aligned with the beverage industry to beat back Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ban on large soda containers.”
However, not only is the Maine Casino already facing an uphill battle, the road is likely to grow more challenging as more opposition groups appear too.
Speaking on background, an attorney hired by Churchill Downs told the Maine Public “it will soon launch its bid to oppose Scott’s ballot campaign – Question 1 on the November ballot.”
Penn National is likely to oppose the measure too. The company runs the Bangor slots parlor as well as Plainridge Park Casino in Massachusetts, which is roughly two hours away from the proposed casino site.
And of course, there will be the usual backlash from the anti-gambling religious right and other groups.