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SCARBOROUGH — A group of well-known local business owners Thursday confirmed they have a contract to purchase the 480-acre harness racing Scarborough Downs property. The sale to Cross Roads Holdings, which was first revealed in October, is not expected to be finalized until early January. What was not revealed until Thursday is that the principals of Cross Roads are the owners of Risbara Bros. Construction, longtime developers in southern Maine, and Peter and Richard Michaud, former owners of Michaud Distributors. All have deep roots in Scarborough. In a press release, Rocco Risbara III said, “We care about our town’s future and it (will) be a privilege for us to develop this land.” Few details were available about possible redevelopment plans for the Downs. But the partners said they expect it to be a long-term project, and plan to keep the historic race track open, at least for now. As part of the agreement, Cross Roads Holdings will lease the track back to its current owners and, in the process, preserve more than 60 track jobs. “For years, we sought after prospective buyers that were connected to the community and willing to work toward the preservation of our heritage,” Scarborough Downs owner Denise Terry said in the press release. “The Risbara and Michaud families present a perfect match (and) our family and employees are excited to work with (such) respected, local business owners,” Terry said. Scarborough Downs has hosted harness races since 1950. It also offers off-track betting and holds various special events throughout the year. The Downs has long sought to be allowed to offer other forms of gambling, but a series of referendums that would have allowed slot machines were all defeated. Last spring, Thom Powers led a group of Massachusetts-based developers that specialize in distressed properties and mixed-use projects in a bid to buy Scarborough Downs. That deal fell through, leaving the way open for the Risbaras and Michauds. No purchase price was announced, but according to published reports, Downs owner Sharon Terry had previously asked $7.5 million for the property, which includes a grandstand and clubhouse, barns, half-mile racetrack and outlying land. In speaking of the team behind Cross Roads Holdings, Scarborough Town Manager Tom Hall said it “has a great track record and I’m confident that they will have Scarborough’s best interest in mind as they redevelop this property.” The town is developing a new Comprehensive Plan and redevelopment of the Downs property is a top priority, Hall added. The town’s Long Range Planning Committee was scheduled to have an initial meeting with Cross Roads Holdings on Friday morning, after The Forecaster’s deadline. At Wednesday’s Town Council meeting, Hall called the presentation to the Long Range Planning Committee “the first step in the creation of a master plan” for the Scarborough Downs property. On Thursday, a spokeswoman for the team of developers said it’s their intent to make the master planning process inclusive and open, and they want to get input from residents and town officials. In 2013, Scarborough approved a new development zone for the Downs property, which allows several different uses, from residential to commercial to municipal. “Cross Roads Holding will work collaboratively with the town, residents and end-users to determine the most successful and desirable ways to develop the large portion of land in the center of town,” the press release said. Meanwhile, Scarborough Downs is still part of a long-shot bid by the town to get Amazon’s new headquarters. Amazon, based in Seattle, asked municipalities or regions to submit proposals to build a second headquarters, known as HQ2, that would eventually employ 50,000 workers. Cross Roads Holdings “is currently performing inspections and surveying the land as part of the due diligence process,” the press release said. “When that work is complete, the (sale of the) property will close.” In an introduction letter to the Long Range Planning Committee, the consultant for Cross Roads Holdings, Gorrill Palmer, said it would “be a long-term development project with a 15- to 30-year build out.” The phased development is designed “to incrementally deliver a return on investment, capitalize on market demand and steadily build out a diverse, mixed-use community,” the letter said. By Kate Irish Collins  Reprinted with permission The Forecaster

Scarborough, Maine - November 26, 2017 ... For the 11th consecutive season, a special retirement ceremony was held at Scarborough Downs to celebrate the careers of the grand 14-year-olds who have graced our racetrack over the years. This year, 12 such veteran campaigners were feted, including Ariel, Art's Sake, Chilli NZ (300 starts, 56 wins, 35 seconds, 40 thirds, $466,940) , Cactus Creek, Corky Baran, Devil's Embrace N, (270 starts, 35 wins, 37 seconds, 33 thirds, $257,315) Dreamluck, Fulla Fire, Keystone Stately, Longshaw Hanover, Mcpfast Bluegrass and Super Sydney C. Combined, this grouping has won 466 races and earned over $3.8-million during their careers, while providing countless thrills to their owners, drivers, trainers and grooms. Today, they reclaimed the limelight while visiting the winner's circle one final time to the delight and applause of their adoring fans. What an amazing day to be at the races! Scarborough Downs will proudly feature live harness racing every Saturday and Sunday at 12:15 PM throughout the fall season, with closing day of the 2017 meet scheduled for December 10th. For more information, visit www.ScarboroughDowns.com or visit our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs

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

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — An out-of-state gambling entrepreneur pocketed tens of millions of dollars after his successful referendum to create Maine's first casino in Bangor. Critics say he's poised to do it again. Shawn Scott has emerged as a key backer of a new casino proposal on the Nov. 7 ballot after his sister retreated from her fundraising role amid an investigation over the source of $4.3 million in donations. Critics say Scott is abusing the citizen referendum process by buying his way onto the ballot, much the way he did in 2003 in Bangor. He had quickly sold that casino. "It's a nice trick. It makes him a boatload of money up front and then he can wash his hands of it," said voter Bill Harnsberger, of Portland. Voters will have the final say on the proposal for the state's third casino at a yet-to-be-known location in York County. The referendum is worded in such a way that only Scott or one of his entities could run it. Supporters say the casino would be a boon for schools. Opponents of the referendum are calling it a "wicked shady deal" in advertising. Republican Gov. Paul LePage says the proposal is motivated by greed and that a state with 1.3 million people can't support a third casino. "It's a stacked deck," LePage said. "Once again, Maine's referendum process has been hijacked by big money, out-of-state interests hoping to pull the wool over your eyes." In Maine, the pro-casino Progress for Maine political action committee has enlisted the services of the same consulting firm that helped convince United Kingdom voters to leave the European Union. The casino campaign has reported spending more than $1.5 million on campaign expenses, on top of over $4 million to get the measure on the ballot. Scott's past dealings have been profitable but checkered. His ventures have included opening hotel casinos, racetrack casinos and video poker. But there were setbacks, as well. He's been denied licenses, and sued many times. In 2003, Scott was largely unknown in Maine when he financed a successful referendum campaign to create the state's first casino. He quickly sold out to Penn National Gaming when questions were raised by state officials about his financial dealings, associates and lawsuits. The Oxford Casino became Maine's second casino after a referendum in 2010. Scott shifted his focus to international business efforts before it became known that he was behind a failed casino proposal last year in Massachusetts. The PAC behind that effort was fined in Massachusetts for campaign reporting law violations, and a similar investigation is underway in Maine. Both Scott and his sister weren't immediately available for comment. But he told a radio station that he intends to operate the southern Maine casino, not sell the license. Regardless of who operates the casino, the business would give a year-round boost to what's now a seasonal-based tourism economy in the region, said Jim Albert, a restaurant owner in York County. "Anytime you can get an economic hub such as this, it's a boon," he said. Jenny Freeman, a retiree from Kittery, believes a day of reckoning has come when the rich can usurp what's supposed to be a grassroots petition effort. "It's a bastardization of the citizen initiative process," she said. Critics have found the casino campaign claims to be dubious. The latest TV ads touting Question 1 on the ballot don't even mention the word "casino." Supporters say the casino would create 2,000 jobs and generate more than $45 million in tax revenue. Chris Vermilion, a software engineer from Portland, said he likes to go to casinos. But he has a problem with referendum process being used in a "blatantly cynical" way to profit a handful of individuals. "I'd love for there to be casino in York County. I'm probably as pro-casino as they come. But this particular process, it's sort of gross," he said. David Sharp and Marina Villeneuve, Associated Press Reprinted with permission of the LMTonline site

Scarborough, Maine - October 19, 2017 ... Walter Case Jr., the legendary harness racing driver and state of Maine native, will return to action at Scarborough Downs on Saturday (10/21), nearly eight years removed from his last start in the sulky. He is listed to drive in all eleven races on the afternoon program which will get underway at 1:30 PM (EDT). The best place to witness Case's historic return will be live at the track, but the program will also be simulcast through the Maine OTB network and nationally through the wagering platform, Day At The Track, who is the exclusive provider of the Scarborough Downs live video stream. Case, the eighth leading driver in the history of the sport with 11,038 career wins received a provisional driving license from the Maine Harness Racing Commission last week setting the stage for his return to racing in Maine. Case, who has not raced anywhere since 2008, was grateful for the opportunity to rekindle his career remarking, "Maine is my home. It's where my career started, and I'm looking forward to coming back and competing again." For the last nine years, Case has lived a relatively quiet life, training horses with his wife in Ohio. His racing career all but ended in 2004 when he was convicted of assault and ended up serving four years in prison. Until now, he had been kept out of the sport by licensing authorities. "Everyone deserves a second chance," Case's attorney Evan Fisher said. "The commission's decision is not only good for Walter, but it's good for the sport and good for Maine's harness racing industry." Casey's prowess on the track remains vivid in the minds of longtime harness fans but his return should prove enlightening to younger patrons of the sport who may only be familiar with Case through archives and record books. "How to explain Casey to people who never saw him drive a horse" mused trainer Adam Gray, "The man could make horses do things that even the horse didn't know was possible. He got speed out of horses like no other driver could do. The man had a gift, and now we get a chance to see him try to do it all over again. Casey's return will be a huge boost to harness racing in Maine." "We are happy for Walter and pleased that he will be appearing at the Downs this weekend" said Denise Terry, vice president at Scarborough Downs. "He has always been an integral part of the Maine harness racing industry and a generous supporter of this track and we believe its time to allow him his chance at redemption. The reaction to the news of his return has been overwhelmingly positive and we are expecting a big day at the races on Saturday." Scarborough Downs will proudly feature live harness racing every Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 PM throughout the fall season, with closing day of the 2017 meet scheduled for December 10th. For more information, visit www.ScarboroughDowns.com or visit our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs  

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 Fryeburg Fair traffic is heavy but moving along nicely, and Woodsmen’s Day was extremely well-attended, thanks in part to the beautiful weather. I arrived on the grounds for an early morning walk and to marvel at the way this huge event all comes together. It takes a lot of people power to pull it off, but every year they manage to do just that. I’m looking forward to the many events that take place each day, including open pig scramble, the two-crusted apple pie contest, and the night show, featuring Cassadee Pope, all happening on Wednesday. Harness racing began on Tuesday and will continue all week. You have plenty of time to place bets on your favorite horse. Shows also continue throughout the week showcasing draft horses, horse pulling, show beef and more. Thursday’s night show features High Valley, and Friday will feature Motor Booty Affair. On Friday, the local kids will make their way to the fair to enjoy the rides, games and food. Don’t miss the fireworks after the night show. Saturday is always a very busy day beginning with the grand parade at 10 a.m., sheep shows, 4-H beef heifer and showmanship events. The days ends with music by Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper. Everything wraps up on Sunday, ending with the 4WD Pull and the big drawing for this year’s Corvette, raffled off by the Fryeburg Recreation Department. The 2017-18 Met Opera Live in HD series opens with a new production of Bellini’s demanding masterpiece, “Norma” this Saturday, Oct. 7, at 1 p.m. at the Leura Hill Eastman Performing Arts Center, located at 18 Bradley St. in Fryeburg. Starring Sondra Radvanovsky as the Druid priestess and Joyce DiDonato as her archrival, Adalgisa, Sir David McVicar’s evocative production sets the action 2,000 years ago, deep the Roman proconsul over a Sicambri tribe of Druids, a moon-and-nature worshipping sect in what would now be Germany and of which Norma is priestess. The natives are restless for war to drive the Romans out, but Norma has been sleeping with the enemy, namely Pollione and, unbeknownst to her followers, has two children by him. Instead of war she prays for peace. Tickets are $26 for adults, $23 for seniors and $18 for students. Tickets can be purchased ahead of time at fryeburgacademy.org/pac, or by calling the box office at 207-935-9232. Tickets will also be available at the door when the lobby opens at noon. The run time for this production is approximately three hours (including one intermission). There will not be a catered lunch before the opera, but coffee and light snacks will be available during intermission. Opera enthusiast Joe De Vito will be hosting his free opera lecture series at the performing arts center on Thursday, Oct. 5, at 3 p.m. On Monday, Oct. 9, be sure to wish my wonderful son Jeremy Johnson a very happy birthday. The public hearing on Industrial Park Municipal Development and Tax Increment Financing District takes place on Oct. 10 at the Fryeburg Fire Station located at 520 Main St. at 6 p.m. Interested parties are encouraged to attend. Voting for the Special Town Meeting on Oct. 12 will be held at the American Legion on Bradley Street from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Happy Columbus Day! By Robin Johnson Reprinted with permission of The Conway Daily Sun  

Scarborough, Maine - August 20, 2017 ... The two-year-old trotting divisions of the Maine Sire Stakes program made their fourth and final appearance of the 2017 season at Scarborough Downs on Sunday (8/20); the harness racing freshman leaving town on a high note with one even etching his name on the wall of honor as a divisional track record holders. He'salilbitnoble scored his fourth career win during the $10,272 colt division on Sunday, stopping the clock in a lifetime best 2:02.3 which equaled Scarborough's divisional track record which was established in 2008 by another Maine-bred, Bad Boy Billy. With all the colt's wins featuring a front end trip, driver Mark Athearn promptly steered his charge onto the early lead. The dashing duo quickly benefited as 4 of the 7 combatants rolled off stride before reaching the 1/8th pole, and the rest of the mile was mere child's play for the son of Nobel Venture-Litany Hanover. He'salilbitnoble is trained by Gretchen Athearn for owner William Phipps. Cinamatic Venture (G. Mosher), one of the three trotters to not make a break finished second while Go Full Throttle (K. Ireland) benefited from a fault-free trip to grab third. Team Athearn then doubled their stakes pleasure as another member of their roster, Wild Bandita took top honors in one of two $9976 filly divisions on the program. Just as the front end seat worked magic for her track record holding stable-mate, the strategy proved equally faultless for Wild Bandita as driver Mark Athearn cut the mile and navigated the course, in a lifetime best 2:06.1 clocking en route to securing the filly's third career win. The daughter of Boy Band-Wild Pine is trained by Gretchen Athearn for owner Michael Andrew. American Flambe (M. Cushing) kept her perfect on-the-board ratio intact with a solid runner-up placing while June Carter Cast (G. Mosher) survived multiple breaks to finish third. Pembroke Dancer continued her display dominance on Sunday, effortlessly securing her fifth consecutive victory in a lifetime best 2:05.2 clocking in the other filly division. Driver Heath Campbell confidently steered the CR Power Glide-Spring Laughter filly to the early lead and then commenced to toy with the field, ultimately with no one coming within two lengths of the pacesetter throughout the mile. The remarkable filly, trained by Valerie Grondin for owner William Varney, claimed the lion's share of the $9977 purse, increasing her career bankroll to 29,872. Sweet Amy O (J. Beckwith) finished second while Dualpatwitchywoman (M. Athearn) was third. Scarborough Downs is pleased to present twilight harness racing cards on a Thursday and Saturday schedule at 4:30 PM (EDT) with the Sunday matinee heading to post at 1:30 PM. For more information, visit www.ScarboroughDowns.com or visit our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs

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

Scarborough, Maine - July 30, 2017 ... The three-year-old filly pacing division of the Maine Sire Stakes program anchored the Scarborough Downs harness racing card on a picture perfect mid-summer afternoon and quite fittingly, Pembroke Perfect continued to flaunt her winning ways on Sunday (7/30). The prolific filly grabbed the lion's share of the $10,017 stakes purse as the daughter of Western Maverick-Perfect Launch scored her fourth seasonal win from four seasonal starts, in the first of two state-bred events for sophomore fillies. Driver Heath Campbell confidently guided the streaking filly to an early lead and then never once twitched a muscle en route to an in-hand glide to the finish line, while the Valerie Grondin trainee posted her fourth consecutive charted line to feature only the number one at each and every pole. The imposing filly, owned by the tandem of William Varney and Lynn-Marie Plouffe, tripped the tele-timer in a fleet 1:58.1. Arabella (N. Graffam) closely stalked the pacesetter throughout the mile to earn the bridesmaid share while Dual Pat's Bug Bug (M. Athearn) hit the board for the first time in 2017 by finishing third. Like the birth of spring, Persephonie burst upon the scene in the second $10,016 stakes split, securing her first win of the season through a determined front end strategy. The daughter of Baran Biltmore-Dynamite Donna who previously had been matched up against either the undefeated Pembroke Perfect or the undefeated Meadows Rosebud in all 2017 stakes starts, took full advantage of Sunday's hidden class relief to the secure the 2:00 score, with driver Heath Campbell claiming his second stakes win of the afternoon. Persephonie is owned and trained by Kevin Switzer. CBF Sunshine (E. Davis Jr.) tracked throughout the mile to secure the runner-up placing while Poocham Princess (G. Mosher) rallied for the show. Maine Sire Stakes action returns to Scarborough Downs on Saturday (8/5) afternoon as the two-year-old trotting divisions take center stage. Scarborough Downs is pleased to present twilight harness racing cards on a Thursday and Saturday schedule at 4:30 PM (EDT) with the Sunday matinee heading to post at 1:30 PM. For more information, visit www.ScarboroughDowns.com or visit our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs  

Scarborough, Maine - July 20, 2017 ... The three-year-old filly pacing division of the Maine Sire Stakes program anchored the harness racing card at Scarborough Downs on Thursday (7/20) and while hopes for success were high among the 12 fillies entered, two dominant forces continued to rack up the wins, much to the delight of their owners but to the chagrin of the competition. Meadows Rosebud remained perfect as a sophomore as she extended her current win streak out to three in a row in the first of the two stakes splits. Guided by driver Eddie Davis, Jr for trainer Ralph Anderson, the daughter of Western Maverick-Rose Of Aquamarine engaged in an insistent sort of campaign on Thursday, bullying her way through three-wide traffic from the start, gaining command after flashing a sizzling 27.4 clocking at the quarter-pole, throttling down that early speed to conserve energy, and then fending off all challenges en route to posting a seasonal best 1:57.4 race time. Meadows Rosebud, who claimed the lion's share of the $10,241 purse, is owned by Lorraine O'Connor. Arabella (D. Campbell) repeatedly hounded the pacesetter before settling for an encouraging runner-up placing. Persephone (H. Campbell) rode the pylons to the show. Pembroke Perfect matched Meadows Rosebud in their pursuit of the perfect season by throwing in yet another dominating performance in the second $10,242 stakes division. Hustled confidently to the early lead by driver Heath Campbell, the filly was never seriously threatened as she strode majestically twice around the half-mile oval. The win was the third of the season for the daughter of Western Maverick-Perfect Launch who is trained by Valerie Grondin for the ownership group of William Varney and Lynn-Marie Plouffe. More impressively though, the win marked the 9th consecutive victory lap for the 2016 freshman pacing champion, a string of wins that remarkably began exactly one year ago to the day. CBF Sunshine (E. Davis Jr) completed a great day at the races for the Ralph Anderson stable by finishing second. Spoxy's Girl (D. Campbell) aggressively secured the show dough. Maine Sire Stakes action returns to Scarborough Downs on Sunday (7/23) afternoon as the two-year-old trotting divisions revisit the seaside oval. Scarborough Downs is pleased to present twilight harness racing cards on a Thursday and Saturday schedule at 4:30 PM (EDT) with the Sunday matinee heading to post at 1:30 PM. For more information, visit www.ScarboroughDowns.com or visit our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs  

Scarborough, Maine - June 30, 2017 ... The guardians of the Maine Sire Stakes program, let loose their freshman colt combatants, to frolic along the seaside oval at Scarborough Downs on Friday (6/30), as the harness racing two-years-olds made their second career stakes starts following up on last weekend's Bangor debut. Thirteen colts and geldings were split into two divisions to be contested for twin $10,000 (plus) purses, in what remains a relatively lucrative, yet somewhat hidden, opportunity along the national sire stakes circuit. Luceman and driver Kevin Switzer, Jr. held sway in the opening split, choosing a front-end assault while leading the field twice around the oval in a lifetime best 2:01.1 clocking. The son of Western Maverick-Perfect Launch deftly made amends for last week's troubled trip at Bangor, which featured multiple breaks of stride, with a picture perfect example of steadiness of gate and fortitude in Friday's Scarborough appearance. Luceman is owned by Florence O'Keefe and KDK Standarbreds and hails from the roster of noted state of Maine conditioner, Gordon Corey. Thankyouallmyfans (E. Davis, Jr.) sat second throughout to secure runner-up honors. Secret Assault (S. Gray) made a bold power move up the backstretch before settling for third. The magic continued for the ownership group of Florence O'Keefe and KDK Standardbreds in the second division, as the consortium doubled their pleasure with their other stable star, Hoppi, who extended his young undefeated season out to two consecutive scores. The son of Western Maverick - Barbara Ann was put to the sternest test of his young career as he took determined air in the final panel en route to a brand new 1:58.4 speed standard, but proved more than up to the challenge when the dust had settled. Hoppi, who is trained by Kevin Switzer, Sr., gave driver Kevin Switzer, Jr his 5th win on the program. Mylastdime (S.Gray) rallied to secure second while Twelve (E. Davis Jr) dropped back under pressure to finish third. Maine Sire Stakes action returns to the Downs on Sunday (7/2) as the two-year-old trotting divisions invade the seaside oval. Scarborough Downs is pleased to present twilight harness racing cards on a Thursday through Saturday schedule at 4:30 PM (EDT) with the Sunday matinee heading to post at 1:30 PM. For more information, visit www.ScarboroughDowns.com or visit our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs

Scarborough, Maine - June 29, 2017 ... Maine sire stakes racing made a triumphant return to Scarborough Downs on Thursday (6/29) as the harness racing three-year-old filly pacing divisions took center stage, in twin splits, raced for purses in excess of $10,000 apiece. Meadows Rosebud left a little doubt in the outcome of the first division of state-bred lassies as the three-year-old daughter of Western Maverick-Rose of Aquamarine set sail from the rail, never to look back, while she effortlessly piking her rivals twice around the half-mile oval, before coasting to a 5-length margin at the wire. Owned by Lorraine O'Connor of Bedford Massachusetts and trained by veteran roster-master Ralph Anderson, Meadows Rosebud was teamed to her initial three-year-old victory by driver Kevin Switzer, Jr. and timed in 2:00. Downeast Foxy lady (G. Mosher) followed gamely along for runner up honors while Arabella (M. Graffam) rallied for third. Pembrook Perfect wasted precious little time in laying out her plans for her quest for back to back state-of-Maine Championships, as the Queen of last year's freshman set quickly claimed her customary front-end seat, to impressively tally her 9th career victory, timed in 2:00, as she launched her sophomore campaign in picture perfect fashion. The daughter of Western Maverick-Perfect Launch was driven to victory by Heath Campbell for trainer Valerie Grondin, much to the delight of co-owners William Varney and Lynn-Marie Plouffe. Persephone (K Switzer, Jr) stalked throughout while settling for second place honors, while CBF Sunshine (E. Davis, Jr) mounted a credible rally for third. Maine sire stakes action returns to Scarborough Downs Friday afternoon with the two-year-old pacing colt division taking center stage, starting with a 4:30 PM post time. Scarborough Downs is pleased to present twilight harness racing cards on Thursday through Saturday at 4:30 PM (EDT) with the Sunday matinee heading to post at 1:30 PM. For more information, visit www.ScarboroughDowns.com or visit our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs    

Scarborough, Maine - June 24, 2017 ... Just as June heralds the beginning of summer, the arrival of Maine Sire Stakes season marks a certain regeneration of hope and a renewal of vigor, as anxious harness racing breeders, owners, trainers and grooms bring their young equine charges to the raceway for the very first time. Under ideal twilight conditions on Saturday (6/24) the freshman filly pacers were the first of the Maine Sire Stakes combatants to arrive at Scarborough Downs this season. They were split into near-twin divisions and sent post-ward for purses of $10,007 and $10,182 respectively Shes A Maverick responded handsomely at every asking in the first stakes division as the daughter of Western Maverick-Fiber Art held off a determined cavalry charge en route to scoring her her first career victory, timed in an in-hand 2:04, much to the delight of her owner, Carolyn Corso of Henderson, Nevada. Driver/trainer John Nason pushed many of his filly's buttons on Saturday with the freshman pacer responding like a veteran campaigner at every asking. When urged to leave from the gate, she quickly made the top. When Nason reined her back to get a parked horse out of his way, she graciously complied. When asked to retake the lead at the half, she accomplished the task so quickly it hardly seemed real. The effort was, all in all, a very polished performance for a filly making only her second career start. Little Honey Badger (M. Graffam) threw in a strong rally bid to secure runner-up honors, while A Thousand Wishes (G. Mosher) held firm for the show. With her premier victory lap now practiced and perfected, Shes A Maverick sets her sights on the summer horizons here in Maine. With nine more $10,000 stakes elimination rounds and a rich $50,000 freshman final in wait in September, who can blame her? Saturday's second stakes division saw JustCallMeDee extend her unbeaten record out to a perfect two for two after seemingly pushing the starting gate out of her way while staking her claim for the early lead. She and driver Mark Athearn had everything their own way until Pembroke Passionly (H. Campbell) took flight to engage as they approached the 3/4-mile station and from that point home the dashing divas matched strides to the wire with Just CallMe Dee extending out to a narrow 3/4-length advantage at the finish. A daughter of Deuce Seelster-Justcallmerosie, JustCallMeDee is owned by William Phipps of Yarmouth, Maine. Pembroke Passionly held for the place while Where Does Time Go (E. Davis, Jr.) finished third. Scarborough Downs is pleased to present twilight harness racing cards on Thursday through Saturday at 4:30 PM (EDT) with the Sunday matinee heading to post at 1:30 PM. For more information, visit www.ScarboroughDowns.com or visit our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs  

In the 14 years since Maine voters approved the Hollywood Racino referendum for Bangor, over $112 million dollars has been directed to the state’s harness racing industry. The original referendum dedicated 11 percent of net slot machine revenues to harness racing and agriculture fairs, with additional funds to be set aside for prescription drugs for the elderly plus college scholarship funds. Unfortunately, the terms were later altered and 22 percent of slot machine revenue became dedicated to harness racing. Since that time, the number of licensed Maine horse racing owners has fallen 40 percent, betting on Maine horse racing has fallen 57 percent, while the number of mares bred for racing is down 44 percent, with many horses racing here owned by large out-of-state interests that reap the majority of the purses. Scarborough Downs, the state’s largest harness racing facility, is currently for sale as owners describe “dwindling profits, shrinking attendance, increasing competition from casinos, aging facilities, plus controversies within the industry.” Critics cite “functional obsolescence and deferred maintenance” as other issues as Scarborough Downs has received over $13 million in slot revenue, while claiming to lose $13,200 every day the track operates. Bangor Raceway, which features sulky races five months of the year — its largest event in the past 12 months was a snowmobile race — is no longer necessary justification for Hollywood Slots. Now, as the “racino” regularly simulcasts horse races from all over the country. The saddest part of watching this industry’s decline is that legislators subsidized harness racing with little, if any, oversight, giving on average, $9.3 million a year to tracks, breeders and the industry to do whatever they wished. The results question the wisdom of those acts, as well as the intentions of some of the industry’s key individuals. At a recent hearing before Rep. Louie Luchini’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, Harness Racing Commission Executive Director Henry Jennings tried to explain a confusing industry report thusly: “I was hoping that you wouldn’t ask me about these two pages.” Without controls, measurements or competition, incompetence and corruption are likely to exploit “free” money as morality becomes a short commodity. While no one alleges malfeasance here, citizens are left to wonder why so many hands in such a lucrative cookie jar have benefited so few, with little to show for such large sums of money. At the very least, it is another sign of how not to govern. In a state with chronic social demands for taxpayer dollars, has the distribution of casino takes helped this former family industry or forestalled the inevitable? “Yes, there are benefits … whether or not the benefits outweigh the costs is the question,” Luchini stated. Taxpayers expect government to be good stewards of all monies taken in by the state and its institutions. When the money is easy and free, suddenly more people “will need it.” Is it unreasonable to expect that we simply cannot give tax monies to every idea? Reprinted with permission of The Ellsworth American

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