Race: Biddeford and Washington County racinos (Question 2)
Ads: 1 print mailer, 1 30-second TV ad, “Putting Maine to Work”
Sponsor: Putting Maine to Work (Ballot Question Committee in support of the racinos)
Text: Print ad (excerpts)
“Yes on Question 2: Building two new facilities . . . One in Biddeford, where voters have already approved the project in a local referendum and the developer currently employs 1,700 people in the state. One in Washington County, owned by the Passamaquoddy Indian tribe and located on the tribe’s land.
Creating new, permanent jobs in Maine.
* Generates new, yearly revenue for education, public safety and more
* Protecting and preserving our agriculture and horse-racing industry jobs”
Image: The four-page glossy features two pages of pasture and two pages of construction images. The word “jobs” appears 12 times, once in nearly 3-inch-high letters; “racino” twice in the smallest type.
Purpose: Create the overriding impression in voters' minds that a yes on Question 2 means more jobs.
Accuracy: Local voters approved the proposed $120 million racetrack and gaming complex in Biddeford one year ago. Developer Ocean Properties employs 1,200 people year-round and 500 seasonally, according to campaign spokeswoman Crystal Canney. In the proposal's fiscal note, a portion of revenue would be split among groups, like the University of Maine Scholarship Fund. In projections, that fund would receive $2 million a year based on visitors gambling $1.3 billion at 2,000 slot machines between the two facilities.
Text: TV ad (delivered in single lines by different people)
“Yes on Question 2 will create jobs, and the more Mainers learn about it, the more we like it. I like Question 2 for the Biddeford racino. The racino’s being built by Ocean Properties and Scarborough Downs, two companies that are rooted in Maine. We voted for it here in Biddeford. Question 2 protects 1,500 jobs in harness racing. It will create 1,300 permanent and construction jobs. Whether or not you like slots or whether or not you like horse racing, you’ve got to love jobs. I support Biddeford Downs and Question 2 because I support jobs.”
Image: After a quick announcer's intro and pictures of a woman with a horse, a farmer and a construction worker, it's a series of everyday Mainers talking right to the camera.
Purpose: Marry a yes vote on a new racino with job creation.
Accuracy: A 2007 report from Planning Decisions on the equine industry estimated that sales related to pleasure horses and racing horses supported 5,700 jobs. Scarborough Downs is the largest of Maine’s two commercial tracks, according to the Maine Harness Racing Commission. (There’s also horse racing at nine agricultural fairs.) Canney said construction in Biddeford would create 800 temporary jobs, with 500 people hired permanently after the complex is built. The 100 people already working at Scarborough Downs would keep their jobs.
In the commercial, there’s no mention of the Washington County racino, by name, although Question 2 would allow a racino in each community.
Voters receiving a recent Putting Maine to Work mailer could be forgiven if they wondered what in the heck they were voting for.
The word "racino" appears twice in the brochure, but it's only in small type and in oblique references to Biddeford voters supporting a racino and Bangor having one.
Nowhere does it say directly the vote will enable the construction of two racinos, slot-machine parlors associated with horse racing.
The group promoting the twin racinos clearly believes that "jobs" and "putting maine to work" are easier to sell than images of people feeding coins into slot machines.
This is, of course, the same strategy that has been used by every casino/racino campaign in Maine, including the recently successful effort to launch a casino in Oxford.
The goal is to convince voters they are voting for prosperity and jobs rather than gambling.
This brochure makes that case in an unusually confusing and misleading way.
The TV ad, meanwhile, is much more straightforward: two new racinos will be built in Maine if the ballot issue passes.