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Saturday, October 15, 2005

Maine Slots Imminent - Discrimination Too?

- Slots come to the state of Maine exactly two years to the day after the law that permits them was approved by voters. Penn National Gaming will open its Hollywood Slots casino at 10 A.M. on November 4 at a former restaurant as an interim facility before it builds a larger one in or near Bangor Raceway, a harness facility that had live racing for all of 28 days this year. The casino, which will house 475 machines, still needs to clear some regulatory hurdles to meet the starting date, but the plans call for an invitation-only VIP gig on the 2nd, with all after-tax proceeds to be donated to United Way of Eastern Maine. [Bangor Daily News]

The opening will be a bitter pill for the state’s persistent gambling foes, who failed to collect enough signatures to get a referendum to repeal the slots law on the November 2006 ballot. They needed 50,519 signatures by October 21, but a spokesman for the group No Slots of ME! said they only have 35,000 to 40,000. We didn't get the big flood." [Boston.com] (A tasteless choice of metaphor these days.) The group had the backing of two prominent conservative Christian groups which spearheaded a successful petition drive to force a referendum, to be voted on next month, which, if approved, would repeal the state’s anti-gay discrimination laws and keep Maine as the only New England state to lack such a law. The ballot will read: "Do you want to reject the new law that would protect people from discrimination in employment, housing, education, public accommodations and credit based on their sexual orientation?" Whatsmore, No Slots for ME! is listed as a contributor to one of those conservative groups, but the group claims that the money was merely to cover expenses and that they do not have a position on the gay rights referendum. [Portland Press Herald]

The repeal drive did not however have the backing of Casinos No!, the largest anti-gambling group in the state, who feel that a loss at the polls would be an implicit approval of more gambling in the state. "I would rather isolate (the Bangor) racino and prevent others from popping up instead of risking full, statewide proliferation," [Exec Director Dennis] Bailey said. [Maine Today]

But despite the failure of the petition drive, state law allows them to try again. They’ve applied for yet another initiative, and if it’s approved they’ll have until Jan 20, 2006 (exactly three years before Bush’s Last Day) to collect the required signatures. Rep. Pat Blanchette, a pro-slots legislator said

"They had plenty of time to get them, and they couldn't do it....They need to back off, and they'll find out that this is not the devil incarnate moving into town." [Boston.com]
- Tuesday is the day that the Jockey Guild will face the music before Rep. Ed Whitfield’s House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, whose original intent was to investigate the issue of insurance coverage for jockey's on-track catastrophic injuries. But the Form’s Matt Hegarty reports:
The roster of witnesses, along with a background paper that is being distributed in advance of the meeting, suggests that the subcommittee will concentrate on the Guild and its business practices.
They’ll be confronted by some hostile witnesses, such as paralyzed jockey Gary Birzer and one-time supporter Chris McCarron. Dr. G himself has been called to testify and man, I hope this thing is accessible on the web via CSPAN. There could be enough material there to last me for a year.

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