Dennis Bailey has his year’s work cut out for him, as another gambling referendum is coming up for vote this November. And this one’s a doozy.
Wednesday afternoon the Legislature’s Legal and Veteran’s Affairs Committee rejected the citizen’s referendum to bring a casino to Western Maine, sending it out to voters.
Seth Carey, founder of Evergreen Mountain Enterprises in Rumford, has been pushing the issue since last year when the Legislature rejected the first proposal.
The bill calls for a full fledged casino with slots and table games. Profits from the casino will go to a number of causes, including programs to help Mainers repay student loans and research for an East-West Highway.
It also calls for the gambling age to be lowered from 21 to 19 and would allow 18-year-olds to work in the casino. No other casino would be allowed in Maine for 10 years.
Carey would also become a voting member on any board receiving casino profits.
These last few provisions were troubling to Bailey, who heads up CasinosNO!, an anti-gambling interest group, and Michael Heath, executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine.
Both said their respective groups are gearing up campaigns to fight the referendum in November.
Heath called gambling immoral and a violation of the 10th commandment. Bailey called the bill greedy.
He said he would never support slot machines in the state. “They’re the electronic equivalent of loaded dice,” he said.
Robert Welch of the Gambling Control Board and the Department of Public Safety also spoke against the measure. Since table games aren’t electronic, they can’t be watched through a central monitoring facility, he said. The Department would need to establish nine new positions to regulate the casino, he said.
The bill had two proponents – Carey and an Oxford County resident who said it would be good for the community.
Carey admitted the bill was flawed and promised to work with the committee next year, once voters pass it. He defended his need to be on the voting boards of organizations receiving profits – that’s the only way he could think of to make sure the money reaches the intended purposes.
After the hearing, he defended the lowering of the gambling age. He said 18 year olds can buy lottery tickets and serve in the military, why not let 19-year-olds gamble?
However, while Bailey will be gathering his anti-casino backers and Heath said he will be rallying local churches, Carey said he does not yet have the money for a full-fledged campaign for November.
He said he’s not too concerned, though. With seven months to go, he’s confident he can find investors.
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