AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — We are less than two weeks away from deciding some important ballot questions.
Among them, Question 1, whether permission should be granted to develop a casino in York County.
Ads for and against the measure are already running on television stations in the state.
How accurate are the claims they make?
NEWS CENTER attempted to verify some of them.
One of the casino attack ads claims Shawn Scott, the key developer who wants permission to build the casino, would be the only person allowed to get a license to build a gambling facility.
An excerpt from the ad says, “…which would give him and only him a casino license in York County.”
This was a relatively easy question to answer.
All we had to do was ask Maine’s secretary of state to tell us since his office wrote the question voters will decide on.
So, is Shawn Scott really the only person who would get the casino license?
“That's the way the initial language is written,” said Secretary of State, Matthew Dunlap. “Only that person could have access to the license.”
This claim is verified.
Question 1 references “an entity that owned in 2003 at least 51% of an entity licensed to operate a commercial track in Penobscot County that conducted harness horse racing with pari-mutuel wagering on more than 25 days in 2002 if certain criteria are met.”
The only entity that could apply to is Scott’s business.
The same ad also claims Scott’s companies, “are bringing lawsuits, liens and payoffs to Maine.”
There are actually three claims in that phrase.
NEWS CENTER asked two people about them.
One was Drew Ketterer, an attorney for Scott-affiliated group Progress for Maine.
The other person we talked to was Portland Press Herald reporter, Eric Russell, who's covered Scott for almost two decades.
Here's what they said:
Eric Russell: “Lawsuits, 100%. He's had trails of lawsuits everywhere he's gone but he hasn't necessarily lost all those lawsuits. In a lot of cases they've been dropped or they've been settled.”
Drew Ketterer: “There have been lawsuits. But the notion of bringing lawsuits to Maine as opposed to being a plaintiff or a defendant is misleading.”
Therefore we can verify Scott has had to deal with some lawsuits.
But liens or payoffs, this is where questions appear and semantics really matter.
Russell: “Liens I'm not sure about.”
Ketterer: “To say liens , who knows what that is and payoffs has a very clear connotation of improper criminal conduct. There's no evidence of that. That's a completely false statement.”
Russell didn't talk extensively about payoffs either.
We did however ask him about this claim from a pro- casino ad referencing Churchill Downs, owners of the racetrack with the Kentucky Derby is run each year. They’re also owners of Maine’s Oxford Casino.
“The Kentucky-based gambling group, Churchill Downs, want a monopoly. They've given hundreds of thousands of dollars to protect their gambling interests.”
Russell: “While Churchill Downs is spending money attacking the York County casino, claims about direct payments to politician are questionable. I wasn't able to find any instances where Churchill Downs contributed directly to politicians. There might be instances where they gave money to PACs controlled by politicians but a lot of leaders have PACs and there could be donations to those. I just don't know.”
Of course, there are numerous other claims to look into such as the number of jobs the casino would create.
We'll be diving more into those on NEWS CENTER as Election Day approaches.