Maine Casino Expansion Efforts Could Reemerge in 2017

by Jim Hall

MaineEfforts to bring a casino to York County in Maine could resurface in 2017 thanks to recent signature submissions for a gaming proposal.

For casino expansions or gaming additions in a state, many require that a referendum be placed on the ballot for voting by residents of that state. In 2016, we saw several states voting on casino gaming including New Jersey and Rhode Island. Each state created a campaign to see the referendums placed on the ballot and then voting would see if the changes would take place or not.

The state of Maine was one that was interested in an expansion of casino gaming though efforts failed earlier in the year to see a referendum placed on the ballot for November. Now, it seems efforts have ramped back up with the Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap announcing a signature campaign has been submitted to see slot machines added to York County or a casino.

Signature Efforts

Late last week, Dunlap announced that signatures had been submitted for a proposal known as An Act to Allow Slot Machines or a Casino in York County. The signatures gathered have to be verified as those made by registered voters of Maine. If enough signatures are verified, the state could add a referendum to the 2017 ballot and the vote might finally take place. A similar effort was made earlier in the year but failed due to Dunlap ruling that more than half of the gathered signatures were invalid.

An Earlier Effort

Back in March of this year, over 91,000 signatures were submitted in efforts to see slot gaming or a casino added to York County. If the signatures had been verified, the proposal would be have been voted on by way of referendum. However, after the signatures were submitted and checked, the office of Dunlap announced that less than 36,000 were validated. Around 39% of the signatures submitted were the only ones that were legit.

The referendum needed to have more than 61,000 valid signatures to see the proposal added to the ballot back in November. This was a big blow to those who wished to see a casino in the state. The signature campaign actually began back in December 2015 in efforts to gather enough for the deadline of January for verification.

Those who gathered signatures were said to have made $10 per signature but were then criticized for misleading individuals for signatures and many gatherers said they were not paid on time for their efforts.

The decision by Dunlap was challenged in court by those in favor of the measure back in April but the appeal was rejected by Superior Court Judge Michaela Murphy.

Latest Efforts

With the latest signature campaign, the office of the Secretary of State has thirty days to announce if the signatures are valid or invalid. If the plan goes as the gatherers of the signatures would like it to, then voters may be able to vote on two citizen-initiated referendums in 2017. Along with the casino venture, there is another referendum involving Medicaid for those in the state.

It would be surprising to find that the signatures from this latest campaign are not valid. The gatherers were no doubt instructed heavily on what to do so that the campaign will succeed this time and see the referendum added to the ballot. But only time will tell if the signature campaign efforts were a success. It will be interesting to see if Dunlap’s office will be able to find that the majority of the signatures are valid or if efforts will fail again due to inaccurate signature gathering.