PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Opponents of the statewide Question 1 on the November ballot call advertisements by the supporting campaign "misleading," due to the omission of certain words.
Question 1, if passed, would allow a developer, Shawn Scott, to build a casino in York County. Voters or city officials would decide if they want the casino in their respective town or city.
Opponents say the TV ads do not use the word "casino." Three of the ads mention a "gaming venue," or "gaming facility," but at least two ads on the Yes on 1 website do not reference any at all, speaking only of the benefits that "voting yes" could bring, such as added jobs, funding for schools, and tax relief. The ballot question, however, clearly and repeatedly mentions the term casino.
"Nitpicking about whether the word casino or gaming resort is in the ad -- I think everyone understands we're talking about a gaming resort. I don't think there's a lack of clarity -- it's in the initiative," developer and "Yes on 1" backer Shawn Scott said in an interview on Maine Public Radio on Tuesday.
"Gaming means casino and it's actually a more professional word -- like you talk about the gaming commission," said Becky Foster, a "Yes on 1" spokesperson. "I don't understand why people think that gaming isn't a casino -- it is. I think everyone knows that it is."
However, the "No on 1" campaign is largely funded by Churchill Downs, the company that owns Oxford Casino. Lenardson said their concern with the York County casino is not about losing possible profits to a competing casino, but that Scott will build the casino and then sell it, like he did in Bangor in 2003.
"We know that at some point there will be additional casinos in Maine. I's leaving $200 million on the table and walking away because on guy took advantage of our people's referendum process,"said Lenardson. "He's getting a license that can only go to him. The reasonable question is: 'is this a guy you want to do business with and we believe no. It's not a guy you want to do business with."
Representative Louis Luchini (D- Ellsworth) was one of the legislators who submitted an ethics complaint to OPEGA, questioning Scott's campaign funding sources and tactics.
"They don't even mention the word casino in their commercials, so people are thinking that they're voting for property tax relief or the elderly or schools, but really they're voting to give one guy who lives in Saipan the rights to a casino," said Rep. Luchini.
Lenardson said they are concerned though about the potential loss of jobs of people going from Oxford Casino to the proposed one.
NEWS CENTER also asked Jim Britt, who works for gBritt Public Relations, about the ads and why an advertiser would avoid the word casino, specifically.
"I think the logic of not using the word casino is the negative connotation of the word casino. Casino equals gambling. Gambling equals addiction," said Britt. "There's a lot of truth in what their advertising says but there's a lot of fantasy as well. I think the people of Maine can see through that."
The pro-casino group, "Progress for Maine," sent a notice to Portland television stations, accusing their opposition of advertisements that defame Shawn Scott and his businesses. They asked the stations, including NEWS CENTER, to take down the "No on 1" ad.