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New racino is proposed in Maine
Thursday, September 30, 2010 - by John Pawlak, the U.S. Trotting Association

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Columbus, OH --- Goodbye Scarborough Downs, hello Biddeford Downs?

It could be -- if voters there agree with the owners of the Maine Racetrack and its partner, Ocean Properties, Ltd., who are proposing the construction of a $125 million racino complex to be located near Biddeford, Maine, a town 10 miles southwest of the current racetrack site.

The owners of Scarborough Downs have been shopping for a new home since voters in that town twice -- in 2003 and 2008 -- turned down local ballot options to approve a racino. Biddeford voters go to the polls in November, and their elected officials are keen to have their constituents welcome the development and jobs.

Ocean Properties, founded by prominent Standardbred owner Tom Walsh, proposes a racetrack, grandstand, 1,500 slot machines, an entertainment complex and 200-room hotel. It would be located on an 88 acre parcel currently owned by the city.

There is a hitch, however.

Current Maine law bars the operation of slot machines and construction of casinos. The Hollywood Slots at Bangor Raceway racino was developed during a brief period in time when state law permitted it to be built after being approved by a local referendum.

Another question on the statewide ballot this November asks voters if they want to approve a full-service casino in Oxford County, and whether similar casinos should be barred within 100 miles for the next 10 years. If the voters say “yes,” the Biddeford proposal would need to seek some sort of exemption -- either from the Maine Legislature or a citizen ballot initiative.

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