PORTLAND – The Maine Prosecutors Association came out Monday against a referendum on a $650 million casino in southern Maine.

Mark Lawrence, the district attorney for York County, said a casino would cause an increase in drunken driving, domestic abuse, loan-sharking, embezzlement and other crimes.

Moreover, he asserted that the proposed casino law would not allow the state to enforce gaming laws at the casino, and would give only the Maine State Police – but not local or county law enforcement agencies – jurisdiction over crimes.

“When you look at it, it is at best a dangerous, and at worst a deceptive, casino scheme,” Lawrence said a press conference outside the Cumberland County Courthouse.

Erin Lehane, spokeswoman for the Think About It pro-casino group, said all law enforcement agencies would have police powers at a casino. The Maine State Police would enforce gaming laws, she said.

She also disputed the claim that the mere presence of a casino would cause crime to rise.

“I would think that the prosecutors would understand that the reason for crime is not the opportunity for legalized gambling, which we already have, but it’s unemployment, poverty and the lack of overall opportunity,” she said.

Maine voters will decide Nov. 4 whether to allow the Passamaquoddy Tribe and the Penobscot Nation to develop a $650 million casino and resort in southern Maine. The tribes have set their sites on Sanford, where they have options to buy about 300 acres.

The Maine Prosecutors Association voted unanimously at its monthly meeting in August to oppose the casino. The association comprises eight district attorneys and the state attorney general.

Besides Lawrence, Monday’s news conference was attended by Stephanie Anderson, district attorney for Cumberland County; Evert Fowle, prosecutor for Kennebec and Somerset counties; and Norm Croteau, prosecutor for Androscoggin, Oxford and Franklin counties.

Anderson said other communities with casinos have experienced 30 percent spikes in crime. She said a casino would also place an extra burden on the already overcrowded court system, and cost the state and local municipalities more than it would bring in.

“Does anybody say, ‘Las Vegas, the way life should be?”‘ Anderson said.

AP-ES-09-08-03 1509EDT

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