A political action committee formed to oppose Question 1 on the fall ballot, which asks voters to approve a casino York County, has spent just over $600,000 on its effort, according to state campaign finance reports filed Thursday. Much of it has been financed by Oxford Casino.
A political action committee formed to oppose Question 1 on the fall ballot, which asks voters to approve a casino York County, has spent just over $600,000 on its effort, according to state campaign finance reports filed Thursday.
The PAC, A Bad Deal for Maine, is headed by conservative political consultants Trevor Bragdon and Roy Lenardson, and the cash for the campaign has come almost exclusively from Oxford Casino, the report filed with the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices shows.
The expenditures were funded entirely by $700,000 in donations from Black Bear Development, LLC, the business name for the Oxford Casino, which is owned by the Kentucky-based Churchill Downs Inc. .
More than half of the campaign’s spending. or $328,514.50, was spent on television advertising by a Maryland-based public relations firm. Another $137,897 was paid to New Hampshire-based Rockwood Solutions, which is conducting the campaign’s direct mail campaign. Rockwood Solutions is headed by Bragdon.
Lenardson, the campaign’s treasurer, said most of the Rockwood Solutions spending went to a Scarborough company that produced the mail fliers for the campaign.
The PAC also spent $45,000 advertising on Facebook and Google. A Bad Deal for Maine filed it’s 11-pre election report a day ahead of the Friday deadline.
So far, the PAC’s spending pales in comparison to the pro-casino Progress for Maine PAC, which based on it last campaign finance report had spent more than $2 million trying to sway voters to approve a casino, which would be built by gambling entrepreneur Shawn Scott.
The ballot question, if approved, is written in such a way that only Scott’s company, Capital 7, could be awarded a license for the casino. Scott won voter approval to add slot machines to Bangor’s struggling horse track in 2003, bringing Maine the first of its two casinos. He then sold those rights to Penn National – which still operates what is now Hollywood Casino – for $51 million as regulators scrutinized his businesses and associates.
A second casino in Oxford was approved by voters in 2010 and opened in 2012.
The Oxford Casino, originally owned by a group of Maine investors, was sold to Churchill Downs in 2013 for an estimated $160 million. Churchill Downs owns numerous casino properties, but is largely known for hosting the Kentucky Derby horse race.
A license for a third casino in York County could be worth up to $200 million, state officials have said.
A Bad Deal for Maine launched its campaign in early October, rolling out a web site attacking Shawn Scott’s past business dealings and controversies and dubbing him “Shady Shawn.” The anti-casino PAC has since produced television advertising, including spots that drew complaints from Progress for Maine recently, together with an unsuccessful demand for television stations to stop airing the ads.