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Politics

Maine Voters Could Face 2 Gambling Questions

AUGUSTA, Maine — The ballot in 2016 could turn out to be one of the busiest ever if new gambling questions are approved by the secretary of state's office.

Two separate efforts are underway to begin the signature gathering process to establish a casino in York County and a racino, or slot machine parlor and harness racing track, somewhere in southern Maine.

Both efforts are designed to compete with a developing gaming industry in Massachusetts.

Lewiston signature gathering organizer Stavros Mendros isn't saying much about the casino effort. But he did confirm that he was approached by a group that wants to launch a citizen's initiative to establish a casino in York County.

"You know I own the largest petition company in the state and they reached out to me and asked me to file the paperwork for them so they could get the ball rolling, so that's all I've done right now and I don't know much more than that at this point and I really can't say much more than that," Mendros says.

Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap says he has begun the process of reviewing the applications for Mendros' effort as well as another for a racino slot machine parlor that would be operated by Scarborough Downs owner Sharon Terry.

"We did get two applications yesterday for a casino in York County and an integrated racino in southern Maine," Dunlap says. "Two different organizations have submitted these and what happens now is that we convey their draft legislation to the office of the the Revisor of Statutes."

According to the York County petition application, the new casino would enhance tourism in southern Maine and prevent the state from losing gaming revenues to Massachusetts, where several new casinos are currently under consideration.

The Scarborough Downs proposal cites similar reasons for expanding gambling but envisions a facility that would include a harness racing track as part of the complex.

Dunlap says the two applications bring the current number of ballot proposals for 2016 to 13, but both efforts will have to obtain just over 61,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot by Feb. 1.

"I'm not real hopeful that we're going to see gambling initiatives on the 2016 ballot, just because there's a lot of work that needs to be done before we get that far," Dunlap says.

Last year, a report commissioned by the Legislature determined there was capacity for additional casino gambling in Maine and recommended the southern region of the state as the best location for a new gaming facility.