Anti-casino groups claim victory on Questions 2 and 3

BIDDEFORD, Maine—Numerous media outlets were calling Questions 2 and 3 at 10:30 Tuesday night, with an apparent victory for anti-gambling groups in Maine.

With 55 percent of precincts reporting statewide, 56 percent voted no on Question 2, which would allow racinos in Biddeford and Washington County, and 44 percent voted yes. The margin was even greater on Question 3, which would allow a casino in Lewiston, with 64 percent voting against the proposal and 36 percent for it.

“Stick a fork in it,” said Chris O’Neil, spokesperson for Mainers Against a Rotten Deal, declaring victory.

“It’s verification that Maine isn’t ready to install five casinos before number two has opened yet.”

Maine currently has one racino, Hollywood Slots in Bangor, and one casino under construction in Oxford County. If approved, questions 2 and 3 would have allowed in two more racinos and one more Casino.

Less than a mile away, supporters of Question 2, which was backed by the owners of Scarborough Downs and Ocean Properties Limited, conceded defeat.

“It was a very difficult race, with a lot of blood and set put into it,” said campaign manager Toby McGrath. “At the end of the day, the rest of the state said no to Biddeford, and no to Washington County, as well.”

McGrath said the defeat didn’t represent a “moralistic vote,” but rather was the result of existing gambling interests spending money and effort to protect their interests against possible competition.

If the three proposed gambling sites were approved and built, gross revenues at Hollywood Slots could fall by as much as 30 percent, suggested a spokesman for the Penobscot County for Table Games & Jobs PAC. And a spokesman for the Friends of Oxford Casino PAC argued that voters should slow down the gambling expansion in Maine and at least wait to see how the Oxford casino fares after it opens.