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The award of the first of 10 mini-casino licenses has left Commissioner Dan Vogler hopeful for Lawrence County's chances at one of the remaining nine licenses. The first license was awarded on Wednesday to Mountainview Thoroughbred Association LLC, the Dauphin County-based parent company of Hollywood Casino. The winning offer for $50,100,000 outbid three other competitors. The new mini-casino will be located in Yoe Borough in southern York County. The community is near the Maryland border with access to Interstate 83 into Maryland. "That is very similar to our situation," said Vogler who made the drive to Harrisburg to witness the bid award. "Lawrence County is located on a state border with Ohio. We have access to many major highways from Interstate 376, the Pennsylvania Turnpike and Interstates 80 and 79. We also have empty buildings that would be ideal locations to house a casino." All the county needs, he agreed, is an existing casino operator with deep pockets who can outbid others vying for the remaining nine Category 4 licenses. Vogler said he could not say if any potential casino operators have visited Lawrence County but agreed that several locations might be attractive for such a project. Potential sites could include the Cascade Galleria in downtown New Castle and the former Sears store in Union Township, which has good highway access, is near the Ohio border, has access to massive amounts of free parking and is located near hotels and restaurants. The winning bid and proposed location for the state's first mini casino were announced prior to Wednesday's Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board meeting by executive director Kevin O'Toole who said the amount of the bid must be provided to state officials by 4 p.m. Friday or the license will go to the second place bidder. In all, four bids were received for the first casino license auction. O'Toole said the names of the unsuccessful bidders and their offers would be locked away "secured and confidential and will not influence upcoming auctions." The next auction is scheduled for Jan. 24. Vogler noted that under terms of the new licenses, the casino must be located within a 15-mile radius of Yoe, and may be no closer than 25 miles to an existing casino. Vogler also noted that with Gettysburg in Adams County and all of Lancaster County opting out of potential casino sites, "This locks up south central Pennsylvania along the Maryland border." Gov. Tom Wolf in October expanded the gaming law, creating opportunities for 10 mini-casinos also called satellite or Category 4 casinos. The state anticipates generating $100 million if all 10 licenses are sold. However, an estimated 1,017 municipalities within the commonwealth have opted out of gaming expansion. Vogler, however, noted that there is interest in Reading, Williamsport, State College, Altoona, Johnstown and Lawrence County which under the law is far enough from casinos in Allegheny and Erie counties not to be seen as competing. The county is also 30 miles from the Penn National Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course in Austintown. "The advantage of a mini-casino here is they will have table games — which they do not have in Austintown — and that is a no-smoking facility. A Pennsylvania casino will have designated smoking areas," he said, noting that the Austintown facility is smoke free. Based on the first bid, Vogler said, he believes interested bidders will now retool their strategies for when they return in two weeks. He said he also believes future bids will be lower than the $50.1 million bid for the initial license. What he doesn't know if he'll attend the next bid award. "I'll have to talk it over with Steve (Craig) and Bob (Del Signore) to see if they feel it will go any good to maintain a presence," Vogler said. Over the years Vogler has regularly attended Harness Racing Commission and Gaming Control Board meetings while Lawrence County remained in the running for a Category 1 racetrack/casino complex planned for Mahoning Township. "In that time, I got to know a lot of the officials," he said. "In the year and a half since I've been here, five of the seven Gaming Board members have turned over. I only know two current board members." New Castle Mayor Anthony Mastrangelo believes Lawrence County — and New Castle in particular — would be an ideal location for a casino. "We're open for business and willing to talk to anyone who wants to come in," he said. Mastrangelo said he is not personally aware that anyone representing casino interests has visited the city. "I invite them to see me," he said. "A casino could do us well. It could help us to get out of Act 47." New Castle has been part of the Act 47 recovery plan for financially distressed cities since 2007. Under a change in the law, the city must get out of the program by 2019. Mastrangelo agreed that existing sites in Union and Shenango townships could be good locations for a casino, "But they are not in the city," he said, adding, "I can think of at least three locations right now that would be ideal," The Cascade Galleria, which is in the heart of town offers 70,000-square-feet of developable space, is surrounded by free parking, "and the owner is very interested." Mastrangelo also believes the nearby former Post Office building on Kennedy Square would be an ideal casino location. "This would benefit the downtown," he said. "These sites are available now Mastrangelo added that the New Castle Area Transit Authority "takes six buses every day down to Pittsburgh's Rivers Casino. "If we had a casino, they could stay at home."  By Nancy Lowry  Reprinted with permission of The New Castle News

The New Jersey General Assembly reportedly approved proposed legislation last week that would allow the state’s three horseracing tracks to sign deals with Atlantic City casinos in order to offer online gambling to race-goers. According to a report from FlushDraw, the lower house in Trenton passed Assembly Bill 4255 by a vote of 60 to twelve with one abstention on Thursday and the measure is now destined to go before the 40-member and Democratic-controlled New Jersey Senate for further consideration. G3Newswire reported that New Jersey legalized online gambling in November of 2013 and the industry has so far generated aggregated revenues of around $682.6 million with some $119.4 million of this going to the state including approximately $3.6 million in October alone. However, current regulations reportedly forbid any land-based venue located outside of Atlantic City from offering real-money online gambling but Assembly Bill 4255 would alter this prohibition by creating a special carve-out for horseracing tracks such as Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport. The legislation purportedly envisages permitting such locations, which would continue to be prevented from offering slots and table games, to create bespoke areas where punters could wager over the Internet between race sessions. Assembly Bill 4255 reportedly states that thoroughbred and harness racing tracks in New Jersey would be allowed to ‘enter into an agreement with a casino located in Atlantic City or such a casino’s Internet gaming affiliate’ in order to make their premises ‘available as a venue at which the holder of an Internet gaming account may place wagers at casinos using the Internet’. According to a report from The Associated Press news service published by The Providence Journal newspaper, Ralph Caputo, a Democratic member of the New Jersey General Assembly, stated that Assembly Bill 4255 is a way to ‘bring more traffic into the racetracks’ as they ‘need it desperately’. Dennis Drazin, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer for Monmouth Park Racetrack, reportedly told The Associated Press that he is hoping the proposed legislation receives the full support of the casino industry as ‘absolutely nothing will happen unless they agree to allow it through an agreement with a track’. “Nobody is forcing anything on them,” Drazin reportedly told The Associated Press. “This is really a win-win for the racing industry and the casino industry.” By Adam Morgan Reprinted with permission of World Casino News

For gambling maven Shawn Scott, Maine looks like a good bet. “I believe in the project. It’s worth a shot,” Scott said Wednesday. Though opponents call his bid to secure a casino license through a public referendum “wicked shady,” it’s possible that voters Nov. 7 will agree with Scott that adding a third casino to the state will provide more money for popular government programs without adding to Maine’s tax burden. After all, it sounds good. Promoters promise that revenue from the new casino would provide extra cash for veterans, schools, college students, Native Americans and more, all at no cost to taxpayers. “There’s no downside to the people of Maine,” Scott said Wednesday. “There’s only upside.” Gov. Paul LePage, who vehemently opposes Question 1, said in a radio address Wednesday that contrary to supporters’ claims, the referendum is not about funding schools, creating jobs or lowering taxes. “It is about gambling. Period,” he said. LePage said Maine’s gambling market is already saturated — the state has casinos in Oxford and Bangor — and the proposed new one in York County would merely siphon business away from them. Sen. Nate Libby, D-Lewiston, said Scott is “pretty much the sole driver” behind the referendum, investing at least $9 million to try to get voter approval for a new casino for which he would hold the license. Given that a license for a new casino might be worth $200 million, Libby said, it could prove “a heck of an investment.” LePage called on voters to remember that “in gambling, the house always wins — and the house owns Question 1.” Scott, who lives on the tiny island of Saipan in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, has a different take. He said that Maine’s been losing “tens of millions of dollars” to casinos in Connecticut and elsewhere that could be spent within the state if it had the gaming facilities commensurate with its population. Scott warned that  without a new casino south of Portland “a huge amount of Maine money” and jobs would be lost when the much larger and upscale Wynn Boston Harbor opens in 2019. The ballot measure would increase the number of slot machines allowed in Maine from 3,000 to 4,500. Supporters said the new casino would provide more than 2,000 permanent jobs and contribute almost $250 million in taxes during its first five years of operation. There may be grounds for believing Maine has room for another successful casino. A 2014 state report by gaming experts endorsed the idea. Scott said reading the report helped spur his decision to try to win permission for a new gaming resort. But what makes Question 1 so unusual isn’t that it would allow a new gaming venue. It’s that it would allow only Scott to apply for the $5 million state license to build the casino. The measure reads that the state’s Gambling Control Board can only accept applications for a license for the new casino “from an entity that owned in 2003 at least 51% of an entity licensed to operate a commercial track in Penobscot County that conducted harness horse racing with parimutuel wagering on more than 25 days in 2002.” Attorney General Janet Mills’ office looked into it and determined that Capital Seven LLC, a limited liability company formed in Nevada and owned by Scott, is “the only entity eligible to apply for a slot machine or casino license in York County under this initiative.” What that means in practical terms is only Scott can apply for the license. Scott said that everyone is free to seek a referendum. “No one’s excluded from that option,” he said. “This was our idea.” If it prevails at the polls, he said, there’s nothing to stop someone else from putting another measure on the ballot to open a casino next door to his. Scott, a gambling kingpin who has operated internationally, secured a referendum win in 2003 to allow slot machines to boost the horse track in Bangor. He quickly sold his stake to Penn National for $51 million, turning a big profit on the deal, and left Maine. He also sold the rights to a Louisiana casino that he convinced voters there to approve. This time around, though, Scott said that backers have no intention of cashing out and leaving. He said he’s in it for the long haul. “I love Maine,” Scott said, and he has no intention of going anywhere if voters give him a green light for the $200 million facility he envisions. There is nothing in the measure, however, to stop him from changing his mind. Libby said that if a casino ought to be added, it should arise out of a competitive bidding that would ensure Maine got the best possible deal, not one earmarked for one person to make a bundle. Scott said that in Maine, the only way casinos have ever been allowed is through ballot questions. One of the many oddities of the casino referendum is that given the near-unanimous opposition to the proposal from legislators and political leaders, there’s at least a good chance they’d quickly amend the terms of the deal if the measure wins over voters. As last year’s ballot questions showed, winning on Election Day is no guarantee the Legislature and governor will meekly go along with a proposition they don’t like. The casino proposal would require the operator to hand over 1 percent of its gross slot machine income to the state for the gambling board’s administrative costs. It would fork over another 39 percent, allocated among a dozen accounts, including 10 percent to supplement harness racing purses, 3 percent for the support of agricultural fairs, 10 percent for education, 2 percent for scholarships  at the University of Maine and Maine Maritime Academy, 3 percent for municipalities to reduce property taxes, 1 percent for the Penobscot Nation and the Passamaquoddy Tribe and 1 percent for drug education efforts. Those supporting the referendum blame some of the opposition to it on lobbying by competing gambling interests. They point out that LePage and a number of other critics “have received tens of thousands of dollars from Kentucky-based Churchill Downs and its lobbying arm in Maine” that wants to block a new casino to protect existing interests in the state. Churchill Downs owns the Oxford casino, which would likely lose a portion of its business if a new casino opens in southern Maine. So far, Scott and other proponents have spent nearly $10 million pushing the ballot question. Churchill Downs has plunked down at least $700,000 to fight it. David Wilson, a partner in the project with Scott, said voters shouldn’t lose sight of the benefits it will bring. He said opponents are relying on “total lies” and character assassination of Scott because they’ll lose if voters focus solely on the merits of the proposal. Voters have a mixed record on ballot questions involving casinos. They approved the Oxford Casino in 2010, but the following year they shot down a proposal to allow one in Lewiston. They also refused to put slot machines in Biddeford and in Washington County in 2011. The casino question is one of four on the ballot. The only other controversial one is Question 2, a proposal to expand Medicaid in Maine. By Steve Collins Reprinted with permission of The Sun Journal

According to the new report, the harness racing track and slot machine parlor in Plainville owned and operated by Penn National Gaming, has helped to keep the state’s gamblers’ money from traveling out of Massachusetts. A recent survey of Massachusetts gamblers has shown that had the Plainridge Park Casino not opened, the lion’s share of money spent there since it opened in June 2015 would have been spent at gambling facilities located out of state. In a statement on Thursday, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission said the “Social and Economic Impacts of Gambling in Massachusetts,” is a comprehensive, multi-year study conducted in 2016 by a team of researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, reports The Boston Globe. The Boston Globe reports that patrons of Plainridge Park Casino were asked by the research team about both their non-gambling and gambling spending habits during their casinos visits so that information could be gathered about money brought in by the casino. Information included how much of patron’s spending at the casino was “reallocated” in state from other services and goods and how much of it was “recaptured” from individuals who would have instead spent their money at casinos located beyond the borders of Massachusetts. The team reportedly estimated that 58.3 percent of all gambling spending by residents of Massachusetts was recaptured, while just 16.3 percent was reallocated. In the statement, a lead researcher on the team, Mark Melnik, said, “We were able to use the survey results to estimate that the majority of the money spent at PPC would have been spent out of state if gambling had never expanded in Massachusetts,” according to the news agency. Furthermore, the survey found that the year prior to the June 2015 opening of the Plainridge casino, nearly 90 percent of the patrons surveyed had frequented casinos in other states, with the majority having reportedly traveled to Rhode Island and Connecticut to gamble. Other results of the survey found that most of the patrons who gambled at the casino were older than the general population of the state, were likely to be white, with a higher education that many and an annual household income of between $50,000 and $100,000. Most patrons, the survey found, were from Massachusetts, with residents of Plainville and nearby communities accounting for 11.4 percent and 66.5 percent from other parts of the state. Of all of the casino’s attractions, slot machines are the most popular, with 87 percent of those surveyed saying they played them. A smaller percentage of the gamblers surveyed reportedly said they bet on horse races and played electronic table games at the casino. The Boston Globe reports that according to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, the results of the survey were shared by the researchers in order to help the commission understand better the economic effects of new gaming facilities. One of the team’s lead researchers, Rachel Volberg, who is also a professor of epidemiology at UMass Amherst, said in the statement, “The survey is a tool that allows us to collect data from patrons about where they come from and how much they spend, which is important for understanding the economic impacts of the casino.” While Enrique Zuniga, the Gaming Commissioner, said in the statement, “No other gaming commission in the country has this type of information at their fingertips to inform policy and make data-driven decisions,” according to The Boston Globe. Massachusetts finally enacted casino legislation in 2011, authorizing up to three resort-style casinos and one slots-only facility. After the license was approved in February 2014, ground was broken March 14th for the Plainridge Park Casino at the Plainridge Race Course. By K Morrison Reprinted with permission of World Casino News

We can't turn down new state revenue, 5,000 jobs, a boost in tourism and help for the struggling harness racing industry. If the lawmakers and citizens of Maine can agree on one thing, it’s that Maine can always use a little more revenue. They don’t necessarily agree on how to raise it, spend it or save it, but with the passage of a budget in July that can reasonably be called austere, everyone can agree that a little more money wouldn’t hurt. Why then would we want to turn up our collective noses at a proposal to raise an additional $45 million per year in tax-free revenue? We are referring to Question 1, the ballot initiative that would create a gaming and entertainment venue in York County. It would be responsible for $248 million in revenue over the next five years, not to mention more than 5,000 jobs. And it will cost the taxpayers of Maine nothing more than the gas it takes to drive to the polls in November. There will be no hidden taxes. If anything, property taxes may go down as a result of this initiative. Question 1 conjures up $11 million a year for Maine’s Department of Education, $3 million for tuition relief, $3 million in property tax relief, $2 million to the General Fund, and more than $1 million for drug education and addiction prevention. This is meaningful revenue coming at no expense to the state nor the citizens of Maine. Casinos already give the state roughly $50 million a year in similarly tax-free returns, and we now have the chance to almost double that. Investment in Maine that produces revenue and other benefits for the state is a good thing. We entered the gaming industry more than a decade ago. Now there is an opportunity to expand on that and help the industry grow further, to the benefit of all. This includes one of Maine’s most beloved, if struggling, pastimes – harness racing. Harness racing has been an integral part of Maine’s agricultural tradition dating back to the early 1800s, and its continued existence is a testament to the dedication and drive of Maine’s horsemen, both past and present. But the industry today is in dire need of new revenue. A 2015 report stated that without new revenue streams, harness racing could find itself staring down at “the brink of viability,” an outcome signifying a tragic loss for horse owners, spectators and the historic fabric of Maine. Again, Question 1 raises its head as a viable revenue stream to help keep harness racing alive. The proposed venue would generate an estimated $10 million annually for harness racing, more than doubling the amount currently given to the sport. More revenue means larger winning purses, which increase competition and in turn bring more spectators willing to wager at the events. Question 1 represents a gift horse for our horsemen and the harness racing industry, one we would be ill-advised to ignore. We currently need new, non-traditional revenue sources. We also currently have a ballot initiative that creates tens of millions annually in a proven non-traditional revenue source. York County’s businesses could use the year-round tourism money, its workers could use the 5,000 new jobs, the budget could use the annual boost, and Maine’s harness racing industry could be in trouble without it. Maine voters can do the arithmetic for themselves – and provide Maine with a huge dividend when they perform their civic duty in November. We are voting Yes on Question 1, and we urge voters across the great state of Maine to do the same. By Tom Saviello, R-Wilton, is a state senator. Lance Harvell, R-Farmington, is a state representative. Reprinted with permission of The Press Herald

The controversial ballot campaign hoping to convince voters to approve a casino in York County has hired the same Washington D.C. consulting firm that helped convince British voters to withdraw from the European Union last year. The commissioning of the Goddard Gunster firm is the latest evidence that the campaign, ensnared in an investigation by the Maine Ethics Commission, is planning to spare neither expense nor expertise to persuade voters to approve a third gambling operation in Maine. A new political action committee that formed last month is expected to serve as the campaign apparatus for a casino referendum that has already spent over $4 million just to get on the ballot. The campaign has been dogged by allegations that it hid its funding sources for over a year, and also because, if approved by voters, the casino could only be licensed to Shawn Scott - a gambling developer with a checkered past. But the new Progress for Maine PAC has also paid over $80,000 to Goddard Gunster, a D.C. based consultant that boasts winning track record in referendum campaigns, including the so-called Brexit campaign. Goddard Gunster received a lot of credit for the success of the campaign to convince British voters to leave the European Union, which some believe may also have foreshadowed the election of Donald Trump. The firm's CEO, Gerry Gunster, talked about the similarities between Brexit and Trump's victory with the BBC in November. "People thought, 60 percent of them, that the country was heading in the wrong direction. In the United States that number was right about the same. That's the same number in two different countries that change is going to happen. And it did," Gunster said. Whether Gerry Gunster will be as involved in the Maine campaign as he was in Brexit is unclear, as is the involvement of the firm that claims a 90 percent success rate in referendum campaigns - including a 2012 victory in which it aligned with the beverage industry to beat back Mayor Michael Bloomberg's ban on large soda containers. So far the firm has been paid primarily for social media and website development services - key components in a modern campaign. The firm also has a Maine connection. One of its partners, Dwayne Bickford, is the former executive director for the Maine Republican Party. To this point, the casino campaign has been mired in negative news coverage over its unconventional tactics and an ongoing probe by the Maine Ethics Commission into the sources of its finances, which currently point to domestic and offshore investment firms. The campaign is fighting the investigation, including the commission's subpoena for the bank records of Lisa Scott. Lisa Scott is the sister of gambling impresario Shawn Scott, who first brought gambling to Maine in 2003 with the racino in Bangor. There's currently no organized opposition to the campaign. But that's about to change. While unprepared to talk on the record, an attorney hired by Churchill Downs says it will soon launch its bid to oppose Scott's ballot campaign - Question 1 on the November ballot. Opposition is also expected from the Christian Civic League of Maine and Penn National Gaming - the Vegas gambling outfit that now runs the Bangor racino and slots operation - the same operation that Shawn Scott convinced voters to approve more than a decade ago. By Steve Mistler Reprinted with permission of The Maine Public site

AUGUSTA, Maine — A company apparently tied to China disclosed that it’s backing the campaign for a new Maine casino on Monday — a move likely to frustrate state ethics watchdogs investigating millions in offshore dollars already dumped into the effort. The effort to get voters to approve a York County casino in the November election has been run to date by Lisa Scott of Miami. A company controlled by Shawn Scott, her brother, is the only one allowed to operate the casino, based on the way the ballot question is written. But she may be taking a step back. On Monday, a new political action committee called Progress For Maineregistered to support the casino ballot question. A Maine harness racer chairs the PAC, but the filing to the Maine Ethics Commission says the group that founded it is a New York City company called Atlantic & Pacific Realty Capital LLC. The American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai’s website says that company is controlled by Koa Overseas Consultants, Ltd., a Chinese consulting firm that supports the American EB-5 program, which provides green cards to foreign investors giving $1 million in many cases to new businesses. It’s unclear if the backers of the referendum have changed. Shawn Scott, a U.S. Virgin Islands developer, is linked to a network of offshore companies. But Progress for Maine is setting up a campaign apparatus. In an initial financial filing, the new PAC reported $330,000 in debt — almost all of it from hiring political outfits headlined by Goddard Gunster, a Washington, D.C.-based firm that works on state ballot initiatives. It lists a not-yet-operational website in another ethics filing. Rumiko Yoneyama, the registered agent for a company called Progress For Maine that formed here last month, declined comment when reached late Monday night. She’s listed as the general counsel for the California-based American General Corporation in the financial filing. Lisa Scott and Cheryl Timberlake, a lobbyist who runs Lisa Scott’s political committee, didn’t respond to an email requesting comment. So far, the campaign has been controversial: The ethics commission voted in June to probe the bid’s funding after Lisa Scott disclosed that $4.3 million in campaign funds that filings initially said came from her came from a company controlled by her brother and a Japanese company — in apparent violation of Maine law. That Shawn Scott-controlled company — Las Vegas-based Capital Seven, LLC — would operate the new casino. He ran a successful 2003 campaign that persuaded voters to allow slots at a Bangor facility. But he sold it for $51 million in 2004 without getting a license to operate in Maine after a damning regulatory report. It became Hollywood Casino. Bridge Capital, a Scott company in the U.S. Pacific commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, had a casino seized and sold by Laos in 2015. It was behind a failed Massachusetts referendum in 2016 that agreed to pay $125,000 in penalties for concealing contributions. It also runs its own EB-5 offshoot. That program has long been criticized over cases of corruption and poor coordination with local officials. But it has been used more since the 2008-09 recession made it harder to get bank financing, the Brookings Institution said in 2014. The new PAC is chaired by Charlene Cushing of Farmington, who the Sun Journal profiled in 2013 as one of Maine’s few female harness racers. She didn’t respond to messages seeking comment on Monday and Tuesday. Her involvement is a political signal: Lisa Scott has pitched the casino as a boon for Maine’s struggling harness racing industry, which would get 10 percent of slot machine revenue under the proposal. By Michael Shepherd Reprinted with poermission of the Bangor Daily News

Malta, 24 May, 2017 – Win Systems, a leading technology supplier for the gaming and entertainment industry, will showcase its premium gaming machine range at Juegos Miami, 2017. Win Systems’ senior personnel will be in-attendance at the three-day event held at The Biltmore Hotel, in order to network with potential partners and showcase its product range, which will be exhibited on stand 16. The stand will host its S2 Plus and S3 gaming machines, built with highquality design, immersive graphics and sound, as well as wide range of premium gaming content.  The executive team will be on-hand to speak with event delegates on how Win Systems’ casino solutions can benefit all types of operation, having already established a strong, successful footprint within Latin America. After recent successful shows at ICE Totally Gaming, Feria Internacional del Juego and FADJA, Win Systems is set for a strong second half of 2017 with new business partnerships set to be announced in the next few months.  Eric Benchimol, CEO of Win Systems, said: “We are looking to build on the momentum generated at various successful gaming events over the past few months, and Juegos Miami provides us with the ideal platform to do so.  “We look forward to networking with various potential partners and showcasing our gaming products to this year’s delegates, as we continue to expand our business operations within Latin America. “We encourage all visitors to The Biltmore to come to our stand and discuss with our senior team how our casino solutions can cater for all operator needs.  Win Systems are on stand 16 at Juegos Miami 2017, from 31st May to 2nd June. To organise a meeting please send an email to sales@winsystemsintl.com or call +34 935 308 049.           

Developers of a new project that includes a harness racing track and casino facility in Pennsylvania have revealed plans of what the project will entail, including a new hotel and dining venues. Back in January, David LeVan, a local entrepreneur made the announcement that he was applying for casino licensing in Pennsylvania that was reserved for harness racing tracks. This was the only available license and LeVan had plans to create a casino and track, which would be known as Mason-Dixon Downs. The venue would be located off Route 15 on a piece of land located in the Freedom Township. By February, representatives of the project asked the officials of the Freedom Township to begin considering a change to the zoning ordinance. LeVan had a purchase agreement for 700 acres of land, with some of the land being considered as mixed-use which means that it would not specifically be allowed for harness racing or a casino. Last Wednesday, the representatives of Mason-Dixon Downs along with LeVan presented their plans for the project, to the members of the planning commission as well as the public. The presentation included proposed amendments the group hope to see changed in regards to the zoning issue. According to a report by The Evening Sun, the amendments would see changes such as the minimum required lot area to be 500 acres, the main buildings (including the racetrack) be at least 500 feet from public roads that exist during the time frame of the application and that 60% of the land for the project will remain as open space. The amendments also included the fact that a hotel and restaurants must be included in the design of the site and not in a remote location away from the racing/gaming venue. Parking, wastewater systems, water, building height and several other aspects were also covered during the presentation to give the public and commission insight into the full plans of the company. The addition of a hotel, conference center and restaurants to the plans were made due to a recent market study solicited by LeVan. According to study, it was suggested that adding a 200 guest room hotel, a conference center and restaurants would result in an enhancement of revenues. This is not the first time that LeVan has tried to bring a casino to the area. In 2005 and 2006, he worked on a plan that failed along with an attempt in 2010 when he saw contention against plans to create a venue that proponents felt would encroach on the Gettysburg National Military Park. As far as this recent project is concerned, over 100 individuals were at the meeting last week to show support as well as protest the plans. The members of the planning commission voted to table the discussion and review the plans further. By Marie Kelley Reprinted with permission from World Casino News

KITTERY, Maine — A York County casino could be in the cards for southern Maine courtesy of a citizen initiative slated to be on the November ballot. The group Harness Racing Jobs Fairness LLC, based in Augusta, introduced the citizen petition in December and the secretary of state certified it Jan. 23. This measure would allow for a single casino or slot parlor to be constructed in a town willing to host it in York County. The Legislature has the ability to vote on the bill sometime between now and the November election. Historically, the Legislature has declined to vote on citizen petitions and usually allows them to go before the voters. According to the ballot initiative, 10 percent of net income from slot machines, and 9 percent of net income from table games would be earmarked for the Maine Department of Education. Smaller fractions are to be set aside for the Penobscot Nation and Passamaquody Tribe, higher education in Maine, agriculture, drug addiction programs, the "Fund to Encourage Racing at Maine's Commercial Tracks," and several other entities. Both the Penobscot Nation and Passamaquody Tribe did not return multiple phone calls asking what they would be doing to receive 1 percent of net slot income under the proposed legislation. One element that troubles opponents of the casino is the stipulation that 10 percent of net slot income would be given to the harness racing industry. "This bill is written like people in York County care about saving this gambling industry from a bygone era," said Jenny Freeman, a Kittery resident who was a founding member of the Casinos No political action committee in 2003. "It simply can't support itself anymore." Harness Racing Jobs Fairness is associated with Las Vegas casino developer Shawn Scott. Scott's associates would stand to come away with 61 percent of the net gaming revenue for a York County facility. In 2014, the gaming management company White Sands Gaming published a report for the Maine Legislative Council that arrived at the conclusion that Maine could support another casino, and wrote, "Based on demographics including population, income, age and propensity to game this facility should be located in southern Maine (Maine beaches) with close proximity and access to Interstate 95. Southern Maine includes not only substantial Maine population but is positioned to draw upon important demographics in New Hampshire and Massachusetts." The Oxford Casino and Hollywood Casino in Bangor netted more than $80 million and more than $52 million, respectively, in gaming income in 2016, with a majority of revenue from slots, according to the Maine Gambling Control Board. Scott was responsible for establishing Bangor's slot parlor in 2003 at the Bangor harness racetrack. He sold the racetrack and parlor rights to Penn National Gaming for $51 million shortly after they were approved. It was Scott's ownership of the Bangor racetrack and casino, or "racino," in 2003, which served as the basis for the language on the proposed ballot initiative in York County. It grants his group the exclusive right to open the York County casino, and reads, "the board may accept an application for a slot machine operator license or casino operator license; to operate in York County slot machines at a slot machine facility or slot machines and table games at a casino from any entity that owned in 2003 at least 51 percent of an entity licensed to operate a commercial track in Penobscot County that conducted harness racing with pari-mutuel wagering on more than 25 days during calendar year 2002." In other words, the referendum would give Shawn Scott the exclusive rights to develop the new York County casino. Harness Racing Jobs Fairness did not return multiple attempts to reach its representatives for comment. Kittery has specific language in its town charter prohibiting the establishment of a casino in town and the only way the charter can be changed is through a public referendum. "It's my understanding that the language in the town charter protects us from the state voting to put a casino in," said Town Council Chairman Gary Beers. "There may be some other towns interested, but any potential casino would have to follow the local zoning regulations of the specific municipality." Tim Feeley, spokesman for the Office of the Maine Attorney General, said since the proposed bill has language saying a willing town would have to either approve a casino by a public referendum or vote by a town's municipal officers, a town like Kittery would not have to worry about the rest of the voters in Maine approving a casino for York County and giving developers free rein over where they would like to put it. However, casinos do not operate in the vacuum of a single community and often have spillover costs that affect surrounding towns, according to state Rep. Mark W. Lawrence, D-South Berwick. "I have a friend in law enforcement who says when you build a casino you need to prepare for OUIs at all hours of the day, since these are a non-stop operations, and they'll bring you free drinks if you keep playing," Lawrence said. "States become addicted to gaming revenue and don't consider the policy impacts. The state essentially becomes promoters of gaming in order to increase revenue." This ballot effort illustrates a concern with Maine's citizen initiative law, which allows individual entities to gain economic advantage through a narrowly tailored ballot initiative and not through the legislative process. "My concern is the citizen ballot process is becoming a process where one group specifically is trying to craft a law to get a special privilege," Lawrence said. "Conversely, then you'll only see one group oppose the measure, in this case it would likely be the Bangor and Oxford (casino) owners." Some fear with more casinos opening, there may be an over-saturation of gaming in New England. Wynn will be opening a casino resort just outside of Boston in 2019 to go along with the Bangor and Oxford casinos in Maine. Wynn paid $85 million for its gaming license, according to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission's application. "Under this referendum, Shawn Scott would pay the state $5 million for the licensing fee, a drop in the bucket when you consider what the developer of the Wynn casino outside of Boston paid," said Freeman of Kittery. "He made a quick $51 million from the Bangor casino in 2003 and thinks we're dumb enough to give him another ridiculously sweet deal." By Alexander LaCasse alacasse@seacoastonline.com Reprinted with permission of the fosters.com site

ALBANY -- In 2003, New York's racetracks were paying out among the lowest prizes in the nation, and many of the tracks, particularly upstate harness racing facilities, were nearly set to be put out to pasture. Then the racetracks started adding video-lottery terminals. Now, the purses -- the amount paid out to winners in the races -- are among the highest in the nation, and the revenue at the so-called racinos has also soared. With three new upstate casinos opening in recent months, the state's existing gaming halls face new competition after enjoying years of rising revenue for their casino-like facilities and horse-racing operations, a review of records by the USA Today Network's Albany Bureau found. Purses at New York's seven harness tracks have tripled over the past 14 years, creating an unprecedented dynamic: There's nearly no one in the stands, but the prize money is at levels not seen in decades. "I’ve said to many people that if you want to make money in (harness) racing, this is the best opportunity you’ve had in many, many years," said Bob Galterio, the COO at Yonkers Raceway, the state's largest harness track. ►NY just had a record year for its lottery ►With three new NY casinos open, can they succeed? ►House wins big with casino tax breaks Ninety-two percent of the money from gamblers at the state's racetracks with the video-lottery terminals goes to pay the players as prizes. The key figure is the 8 percent that's left: It is split among the tracks, the horsemen and the state. Without the piece that goes to purses and breeders, horse racing in New York would be nearly non-existent, track officials and experts said. The industry is a major one in New York's agricultural sector: It employs 32,000 people, according to its trade organizations. "If the VLTs didn’t come in 2004, I really doubt racing would be here," said Chris Riegle, the president of Finger Lakes Gaming and Racing, the only upstate thoroughbred track outside of the summer meet at Saratoga Race Course. Also, "I don’t think there would be very many harness tracks in New York." Avoiding closures Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, then-Gov. George Pataki and state lawmakers sought to help the state's economy by allowing the horse tracks to add video-lottery terminals -- the slot-machine-like devices controlled by a central computer system in Schenectady. The move was a way to boost the state's coffers by designating about half of that coveted 8 percent to fund schools. It also was a way to keep horse racing alive after decades of decline in the sport, which was once a major local draw. Batavia Downs in western New York is the oldest nighttime harness track in the nation. Yonkers drew 40,000 people on weekend nights in the 1960s. In 2004, the first VLT facilities opened. It has been a boon to all sides. "It definitely saved racing; it saved the jobs," said Jeff Gural, the owner of Tioga Downs in the Southern Tier and Vernon Downs in central New York. Of the net win -- the money left in the machines after payouts to winners -- 8.75 percent goes to the horsemen and 1.25 percent to the breeders. The rest is split between the state and racinos. The tracks also get 10 percent for marketing and 4 percent for facility improvements -- including hotels that some are building. The money has helped the state's coffers: The racinos contributed nearly $1 billion in 2015 to the state designated for education -- or 48 percent of the nearly $2 billion in net win. Anthony Palermo, of Rochester, plays a slot machine on opening day of del Lago Casino.  (Photo: Jamie Germano/@jgermano1/Staff Photographer)   Soaring purses The purses at the state's eight racetracks and the three tracks run by the New York Racing Association hit $301 million in 2015 -- up 87 percent since 2003. For just the seven harness tracks, purses went from $35 million to $118 million, records from the state Gaming Commission showed. So the average purse per race went from about $4,000 to $11,000 over the 14 years -- putting New York among the top five in the nation. The figures have been extraordinary at some tracks: Batavia Downs' purses grew from $1.8 million to $5.5 million; from $4 million to $18 million at Saratoga harness; and from $20 million to nearly $63 million to Yonkers. Some tracks said they are dealing with a shortage of horses. "If you and four friends had $20,000. The best thing to do is to get together, each kick in $4,000 and buy a $20,000 claimer and race it at Yonkers Racetrack," Galterio said. "The purses are so good. You race every week." Rising racinos While the gambling money has throw life preserver to racing, it also boosted the tracks' owners. The money going to the racinos has skyrocketed since they opened. The tracks, after a sluggish start, negotiated lower payments to the state in 2007. At Finger Lakes, the so-called agent commission -- the tracks' main revenue stream -- doubled to $40 million in the 2015-16 fiscal year that ended March 31. At Yonkers, it was up 50 percent to $177 million since 2008, while Tioga Downs' commission grew 59 percent since 2007 to $22 million. So while the purses are up, so too are the tracks' fortunes, said Joe Faraldo, president of the state's Standardbred Owners Association, which represents the harness horsemen. "The horsemen, their purses have gone up dramatically -- the same way track revenue has gone up with these VLTs," Faraldo said. Live harness racing at Batavia Downs. (Photo: Annette Lein)   Subsidizing racing So the situation has created a scenario where purses are up despite fewer people betting on the races. Yonkers stopped publishing its attendance figures in the late 1980s. VLT revenue provides an increasing percentage of the purses: In 2004, 50 percent of the purses came from the VLT revenue; in 2011, it was 71 percent, state records show. At the same time, total handle at the harness tracks -- the amount bet on the races -- dropped 21 percent between 2003 and 2015, hurt in part by the closure of New York City Off-Track Betting in 2010. The on-track betting on the races also fell: It was down 56 percent at Yonkers over that stretch and down from $3.4 million to $1.5 million at Batavia. Most of the betting comes from simulcasting of races around the state, country and internationally, which is a growing business at Yonkers, in particular. "I don’t want to say it’s become a television studio, but it more important to produce a good-looking television signal than to have tasty hot dogs in the stands," Galterio said. Growing competition The reliance on VLT revenue has raised concerns within the racing industry, which fears the tracks will one day seek to drop racing or cut the amount that goes to it. "A lot of these racinos kind of make it difficult to go to the track, because they would rather be a straight casino and not do racing at all," Assembly Racing Committee Chairman Gary Pretlow, D-Mount Vernon, said. Those fears have grown after the casinos opened in recent months in the Finger Lakes and Schenectady, with one set to open next year in the Catskills. At Finger Lakes, it received a lower tax rate last year because of the competition from del Lago, which opened earlier this month in Tyre, Seneca County, 28 miles away. Even with the competition, though, the horsemen will be held harmless. The 2013 law that allowed for four upstate casinos included a provision that requires the new casinos to keep purses at the same level as 2013 -- if the new casinos cut into the racinos' bottom line.  (Photo: File photo)   Negotiating at Finger Lakes That's a current fight: The horsemen at Finger Lakes face a cut in purses if the racino's revenue drops because of del Lago, which is not required to make the track whole. The casinos have to help the racetracks in the zones established by the state: Finger Lakes, though, is outside the del Lago zone. The sides -- Finger Lakes, del Lago and the state -- are now trying to find a solution to help the horsemen. "I’m hopeful we’ll come to a conclusion very quickly," Riegle said. Pretlow said the Legislature has no plans to revisit the split of revenue between the tracks and the racing industry: "Part of this whole thing is to help racing." The tracks said they continue to invest in their racing, saying it is still a viable portion of their business. Yonkers points to expansion in recent years of hosting major stakes races, including the $1 million International Trot each fall; tracks said they have upgraded their racing facilities. But the tracks often seek fewer racing dates each year, despite protests from the industry, and Finger Lakes won't disclose how many dates it wants this year as it negotiates a new contract with its horsemen. "It really boils down to how much purse money you have to hand out and how many horses you have," Riegle at Finger Lakes said. "If you have a respectable amount of both, you can run more." Gaming the future Dave Brown, president of the Finger Lakes horsemen association, charged that the tracks would just as soon drop racing if they could, but they are bound by the state law. "There is no question they’d love to not run. And they make it difficult for us," he said. Riegle rejected that idea, saying it is still "a pretty significant piece" of the business. Gural, a horse owner who also owns the Meadowlands track in northern New Jersey, said he's concerned about the future of racing in New York. The tracks are not required to market the sport to new customers, and its fan base is dwindling. In December, Tioga Downs received a gaming license to turn from a VLT facility to a full-scale casino. "Without the slots or the VLTs, there would be no harness racing. It’s totally dependent on the revenue we receive from the slots," Gural said. He added, "The problem is that most of our customers are older and we have not successfully created an industry for the younger generation. So what happens when all those people die off?" Joseph Spector , Albany Bureau Chief Reprinted with permission of The Democrat and Chronicle

TRENTON — New Jersey voters Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to expand Casino Gambling to the northern part of the state, meaning Atlantic City will retain its four-decade monopoly on gaming.  The ballot question appears on pace to fail by more than 1.5 million votes, according to projections by the Associated Press — which would make it the largest margin of defeat for any referendum the state has ever seen.  It would shatter the mark set in 1987 when a plan to build a professional baseball stadium at the Meadowlands fell by nearly 500,000 votes. With 93 precincts reporting early Wednesday morning, the casino question was failing nearly 78 percent to 22 percent. The referendum, which asked voters to amend the state constitution to allow two casinos to be built at least 72 miles north of Atlantic City, was one of the more unusual ones in New Jersey history. It sparked fierce arguments across the state, drew a record amount of spending among interest groups for and against the idea, and the group supporting the plan  — OUR TURN NJ — ended its advertising campaign more than a month before Election Day when polling looked dismal. The men who funded that group, Reebok CEO Paul Fireman and developer Jeff Gural, said in a statement Tuesday night that they were "disappointed but not surprised" by the result. "We do not view the failure to pass Question No. 1 as a rejection of gaming expansion but as a rejection of our state's current political climate and a failure to have all the facts presented to them," said Fireman and Gural, who proposed building casinos in Jersey City and the Meadowlands Racetrack, respectively. "New Jersey has to start from the beginning on gaming expansion," they added. "What the people of this state need to see is a transparent, competitive plan that outlines in full detail how gaming expansion would work." Bill Cortese, executive director of opposition group Trenton's Bad Bet, attributed the result to "a broad coalition of community leaders, unions, small businesses and residents who are convinced that North Jersey casinos would be a detriment to the entire state" In the end, Atlantic City will remain the only place in New Jersey where casinos are allowed, a status its held since voters approved gambling halls there in 1976.  Long before the question was ever put before voters, state lawmakers argued for months over details of how the plan would be formulated. Gov. Chris Christie had to step in to broker a deal between legislative leaders. Proponents said the expansion would help New Jersey attract gamblers who now skip Atlantic City because a string of gambling halls opened in neighboring states over the last 10 years. The city has seen five casinos close since 2014 amid the increase competition. Supporters said the plan would bring millions in tax revenue and thousands of jobs, and send a portion of revenue to help Atlantic City reinvent itself.  But opponents argued that it would cause even more casinos to shutter in the financially crippled seaside resort, which is facing the possibility of a state takeover to prevent bankruptcy. They also said the ballot question itself left many unanswered questions — such as how much the new casinos would pay in taxes and where exactly they'd be located. Despite the proposals for casinos in Jersey City and at the Meadlowands, the referendum didn't specify if that's where they'd be built. Trenton's Bad Bet launched an ad campaign that seized on the uncertainty, saying residents couldn't trust state leaders with the expansion. The group was funded in part by Genting New York, which operates Resorts World Casino in New York City and is a subsidiary of Malaysia-based Genting Malyasia Berhad. A number of polls showed a majority voters opposed northern casinos. And toward the end of September, Our Turn NJ suspended its ad campaign.  The more than $24 million doled out for and against the proposal was by far the most ever spent on a New Jersey referendum. But Gordon McInnes, president of liberal think tank New Jersey Policy Perspective, which opposed the question, said in a statement that New Jerseyans "responded wisely" because the proposal "was built on big promises that ordinary New Jerseyans ultimately — and thankfully — realized were empty promises."  Morris Bailey, owner of Atlantic City's Resorts casino, said Tuesday's vote was "an important step" for the city's "return to becoming a world-class resort."   The issue, however, may not disappear. Some proponents say they expect a similar proposal in future years. By Brent Johnson | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com  Reprinted with permission of the NJ.com site  

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