Oftentimes, the fat lady singing happens to be Lady Luck. But when it comes to the Maine 2011 ballot, the hollow cry of the recession should trump fortune’s cautionary shrill in the ears of state voters.
The second slot on the upcoming Nov. 8 ballot asks Mainers whether they would like to take a gamble in including slot machine facilities at harness racing tracks in both Biddeford and Washington County.
The development of these racinos is projected to generate nearly $33 million for the State General Fund, as well as approximately $18 million for other various funding.
According to the Putting Maine to Work campaign — the primary organization in favor of having the racinos instated — the facilities will create 500 jobs in Southern Maine and a comparable amount in Washington County.
As far as numbers go, the deck is stacked in favor of Question 2. During a period in the country where the financial climate is at its stickiest and most uncomfortable, any sign of monetary relief is refreshing. One-thousand new, permanent jobs and millions coming back to replenish the struggling Maine economy certainly seems like the tall glass of water the Pine TreeSstate is thirsting for.
Obviously, Maine could stand to reap the benefits of such an extensive cash flow and occupational influx, but can it afford to compromise past values — which have largely denied gambling facilities in Vactionland — for what could be considered the easy way out?
Past ballot initiatives touting casino intentions have been predominantly shot down by Maine voters. Question 1 in 2007, also known as the Maine Racino Initiative of 2007, failed when 52 percent voted against it.
The Maine Racino Initiative of 2007, if passed, would have allowed the Passamaquoddy Tribe of Washington County to establish a racino in their area. Question 3 on the 2003 ballot refused the Passamaquoddy Tribe and Penobscot Nation their casino for the first time. Question 2 this year is the latest attempt made by the tribe to garner its gambler’s paradise.
In 2003, Mainers denied a measure that would have authorized a slot machine in Sanford. Those voting on a referendum in Saco and Westbrook that same year also shot down the opportunity to make Scarborough Downs into a racino.
According to CasinosNo! — the group opposed to casinos in Maine — concerns about gambling addiction and higher crime rates, as well as the belief that casinos prey upon the impoverished or undereducated, all functioned as deterrents for voters.
Other than Question 2 in 2003 — which allowed for established race track owners to expand their gambling enterprise with the addition of slot machines, ultimately sanctioning the introduction of Hollywood Slots in Bangor — Mainers are generally assumed to be against gaming houses.
But now that the recession has hit, state beliefs have become pliable; Mainers are far more susceptible to offers hardly considered in years prior. Due to the fact that both questions 2 and 3 on this year’s ballots vie to expand the tabletop trade, it’s important for voters to consider where the line should be drawn.
We urge the Maine community to vote yes on Question 2 on Nov. 8, but be sure to contemplate the importance of instilling stipulations on how many casinos should be sanctioned in the state. Even though the economy is in the dumps, piling easy money into the economic pot in abundance won’t remedy the issue.
Washington County deserves its racino by now and Biddeford needs the flair of prosperity just as much as any city or town in the state.
Give into the bookie’s business, but be sure not to overbook at the expense of state beliefs.