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September 1, 2014

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Returns indicate Maine voters OK racino plan

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Maine voters who rejected a proposed $650 million casino referendum Tuesday were more amenable to a proposal to allow hundreds of slot machines at harness racing tracks in Bangor and Scarborough.

While the casino proposal was overwhelmingly rejected, Mainers favored the expansion of gambling at race tracks by a margin of 53 percent to 47 percent with 294 of the state's 649 precincts reporting.

Supporters of the proposal to create so-called "racinos" -- race tracks with slot machines -- seized upon worries over the scale of the casino in touting their plan as smaller and focused on places where gambling already takes place.

It was the second time in three years that racetrack slot machines have been on the ballot. Voters rejected a similar proposal by a 2-1 margin in 2000.

Supporters said the very survival of Maine's harness racing industry was at stake with Question 2, while opponents including former Gov. Angus King said the proposal would create more problems than it solves.

The new proposal called for 25 percent of the gross proceeds from the slot machines to be turned over to the state and to be divided among several state services and racing and farm-bolstering programs.

The proposal required local approval as well, and voters in Scarborough, home of Scarborough Downs, were casting tallies on Tuesday.

Bangor residents already voted and last week the City Council sealed a deal with Las Vegas-based Capital Seven LLC to develop a $30 million gaming and entertainment complex at city-owned Bass Park.

Spending on the casino proposal by the Passamaquoddy and Penobscot tribes far outstripped spending on the racino proposal.

Supporters and opponents of the racino proposal spent $1.5 million through the latest filing period, compared to nearly $10 million -- a record in Maine -- for campaigns for and against the casino.

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