A public hearing was held today for a proposal to allow slot machines or a casino in York County, Maine. The proposal has faced a number of criticisms by lawmakers after they claim the offshore investment company behind the proposal has a suspect history. Despite its criticisms, however, legislature is set to place a question on the November ballot asking voter s to approve the casino due to the fact that so many people have given their signature in support of the proposal.
Supporters of the proposal make the argument that the new casino could bring jobs and a number of other benefits to the area. If the proposal were to be approved, York County could reap the benefits of millions in profits, which would be funneled in to schools, colleges, Maine’s Native American tribes, veterans and a harness racing industry. At the Wednesday morning meeting no one from the public raised their voice in favor of the casino.
Bridge Capital, a high-risk investment firm based in Saipan of the Mriana Islands, would be given exclusive rights to build the casino in York County. Shawn Scott, who represents Bridge Capital, has also previously won a casino ballot question, which helped create Maine’s first casino in Bangor. Penn National now runs that casino. The only representative sent by Bridge Capital was attorney Dan Riley, who had only been notified of the hearing hours prior to it taking place.
Sen. Ron Collins, R-Wells criticized the company for its clear disregard for the affect a casino would have on the community. “Bridge Capital – I don’t think cares what’s in this bill,” Collins said before walking out of the meeting on Wednesday. Collins went on to say that they received the signatures and he fully expects them to pile millions of spending on advertising to make sure people vote the casino into existence in November. He suspects the casino misled people to earn the signatures needed to put it on the ballot, and that Bridge Capital’s motives are purely to profit from the sale of the casino.
The Bangor facility that Scott originally secured and sold in 2003 brought in $51 million for Bridge Capital. Since then Scott and Bridge Capital have been accused of irresponsible financial management, per the Maine Harness Racing Commission. In the span of an 8-year period the company faced over two dozen lawsuits, including a seizure of a facility run by Bridge Capital over corruption charges.
While some continue to argue the benefits of the proposed casino, a number of representatives are still questioning the company’s motives. A hearing such as the one held on Wednesday is very rare, but the publics concerns are valid, given Bridge Capital’s History. As it stands the proposal will appear on the ballot in November and lawmakers are expected to hold future work sessions to prepare it in the months leading up to that vote.