PORTLAND (AP) – While Casinos No! plans to launch a television advertising campaign to oppose an Indian casino referendum, other anti-casino groups are looking to pursue different strategies.

A York County group called One Maine-No Casinos plans to staff booths at state and county fairs this summer with people who will try to persuade fairgoers to vote “no” on the casino question.

The Christian Civic League’s CasiNO Task Force, which opposes a casino on moral grounds, will be working through churches and expects to use direct mailings to members as well as lawn signs and e-mail messages.

Another group, MaineCOWBOYS, even risks portraying the casino question as a white vs. American Indian issue through use of a Web site.

The Passamaquoddy and Penobscot tribes, who want to build a $650 million resort and casino in Sanford, recently began a TV ad campaign that promotes the economic benefits of a casino and claims it would generate more than $100 million in tax revenue and create thousands of jobs.

Opponents argue it will harm the state’s image and negatively affect local roads, police departments and social service agencies.

Casinos No! hopes to raise $1 million so it too can run TV ads, but smaller opposition groups say they plan to campaign without turning to TV, radio, or print ads.

One Maine-No Casinos, made up of four core members and about 40 volunteers, seeks to back up its anti-casino message with facts and conversation at fairs this summer.

“We felt there was a need for face-to-face contact between people who have examined the problem in great detail and people who are new to the subject,” said Douglas Muir, a member of the group.

The Christian Civic League of Maine, which is supported by about 150 churches statewide and has 3,000 activists and contributors, opposes gambling. The group’s CasiNO Task Force will rally its members through direct mailings, which director Michael Heath says worked for the group when it opposed a gay rights referendum question.

“We’ll be using a lot of the same tactics, which are not expensive compared to television advertising, and which have led to stunning ballot victories even when we’ve had no television presence,” Heath said.

MaineCOWBOYS, led by Brian L. Smith of Kittery, attempts to block the casino by satirizing historical conflicts between the country’s white settlers and American Indians. The group’s Web site, www.maineCOWBOYS.com, says its mission is “To keep a casino out of Maine, and do it with a chuckle.”

The full name of the group, MaineCOWBOYS, stands for Casino Opponents Who Bank On Your Sensibilities.

Smith declined to be interviewed, but a Web site disclaimer says the site is based on the premise of cowboys vs. Indians, and is meant to be a parody.

Members of the tribes sponsoring the casino question say they do not see the humor in calling their referendum campaign “an honest-to-goodness Indian attack,” or telling people to “tighten the saddles, clean your rifles, and secure the homestead.”

“The economic well-being of the people I represent is not a joke. The long-term social, cultural, economic and political interests of the Passamaquoddy people is not a joke,” said Passamaquoddy state Rep. Fred Moore. “This is about jobs, not about race.”

AP-ES-05-19-03 0926EDT



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