House sends casino measure to Senate

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AUGUSTA — The House reversed its previous action and voted Friday to send the citizen initiative for an Oxford County casino to the Maine Senate without offering an alternative proposal. The vote was 83-59.

But that doesn’t mean a competing measure is dead.

“We still have not thrown the towel in,” said Peter Martin of Black Bear Entertainment, the group that sponsored the signature-gathering effort to create the citizen initiative that brought the Oxford County proposal to the Legislature.

Martin’s group backs an alternative to its original proposal, which would allow expanded gambling opportunities in Oxford, Penobscot and Washington counties.

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The Legislature can adopt the citizen initiative as written, reject it outright or propose an alternative. If it rejects it, the issue goes before voters on a statewide ballot. If it proposes an alternative, the measure would go before voters, along with the original proposal.

Throughout the week, several legislative proposals have received attention.

The most discussed was the Black Bear Entertainment-backed negotiated alternative that would allow table games to be added to the Hollywood Slots facility in Bangor and allow the Passamaquoddy and Penobscot tribes to run a facility with slots and table games in Washington County.

During debate before Friday’s vote, state Rep. Stacey Fitts, R-Pittsfield, said he supported giving Maine voters an alternative proposal to address gambling interests of a variety of groups.

“The issue for me is whether this Legislature has the guts to take on an issue or would rather punt,” said Fitts, who supports the negotiated proposal.

As a result of Friday’s House vote, the legislation heads to the Senate for consideration without an alternative to the citizen initiative, which calls only for a casino in Oxford County.

The Senate will take up the measure next week.

rmetzler@sunjournal.com

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