How An Embattled Developer Fought To Get A Maine Casino Up For Statewide Referendum – Maine Public

Gambling developer Shawn Scott’s campaign to convince Mainers to approve a casino at an undisclosed location in York County began nearly two years ago with over $20,000 in refunds for bus tickets, airfare, rental cars and hotel rooms.

The travel reimbursements went to the first wave of petition circulators deployed to public squares and Walmart parking lots across the state. The circulators, hailing from Oregon, California, Texas, Florida and elsewhere, were lured by the promise of up to $10 for each signature they helped collect to get the casino proposal on the Nov. 2016 ballot.

Complaints soon surfaced about circulators’ aggressive and deceptive tactics. One of them, John Merchant of Florida, was stopped by Augusta police in the small lot next to the Maine Department of Secretary of State — the same office that would later rule that more half of the 91,000 signatures gathered by the campaign were invalid because of widespread irregularities, a determination that blocked the proposal from the 2016 ballot.

Merchant was given a trespass warning after he entered the offices of the lobbying firm Capitol Insights and demanded payment for his services.

The episode signaled the turbulence that has followed the casino campaign at seemingly every turn.

After two years, over $6 million spent and amid an ongoing investigation by the Maine Ethics Commission into the campaign’s finances, Scott’s casino proposal will appear as Question 1 on Nov. 7.

An unorthodox campaign, scrutinized

At the moment, the York casino campaign resembles the gambling initiatives that preceded it, including the proposals in Oxford and Bangor voters approved in 2010 and 2003, respectively.

Like previous proposals, the York County campaign has commissioned an economic analysis projecting thousands of new jobs and a deluge of tax revenue to the state.

It’s also

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