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Finance Reports: Campaign Behind Casino Initiative Has Spent $9 Million To Opposition's $600,000

Maine Public/file
The Oxford Casino, seen in 2013.

The campaign to convince Mainers to authorize a casino at an undisclosed location York County has spent close to $2.3 million over a 23-day period.

The spending, detailed in recently posted campaign finance reports, includes $1.7 million on television ads, $127,000 on radio ads and a total of $700,000 to the same Washington, D.C., consulting firm that last year helped convinced British voters to leave the European Union.

All told, the campaign has spent over $9 million on a ballot initiative that will appear as Question 1 on the Nov. 7 ballot.

The total includes over $4 million spent by ballot question committees that gathered signatures to get the proposal on the ballot. As written, Question 1 would allow only controversial casino developer Shawn Scott, or a company he controls, to hold the license for the York casino.

The license is estimated to be worth $200 million.

The campaign is also under investigation by the Maine Ethics Commission because Scott’s funding of the campaign was effectively hidden for over a year. The commission meets Tuesday to address the investigation, but it’s unclear whether it will take any action at that time.

The spending by proponents of Question 1 easily eclipses opponents’.

The political action committee A Bad Deal for Maine is leading the opposition to Question 1. Campaign finance reports posted Thursday show the PAC is almost exclusively funded by Black Bear Development LLC, the business name for the Oxford Casino owned by Kentucky-based Churchill Downs.

So far A Bad Deal for Maine has spent over $600,000, about half of which has been on television ads. The ads take direct aim at Scott’s controversial efforts to develop casinos in Maine and around the globe.

If approved, the York facility would be a direct competitor to the Oxford Casino.

New filings posted Friday show that Progress for Maine, the lead PAC pushing Question 1, show over $3.8 million in spending on voter persuasion efforts. The expenditures include $25,000 to the Aroostook Band of Micmacs, which recently announced it endorsed the casino and members of which have appeared in a television ad promoting it.

The expenditures also include $25,000 to Blitz Canvassing, a Colorado-based firm that specializing in the door-to-door voter persuasion.

The campaign has also paid nearly $10,000 to PeopleReady, a company that helps place workers in temporary jobs.

Journalist Steve Mistler is Maine Public’s chief politics and government correspondent. He is based at the State House.