SACO (AP) – Prospects of having a harness racing track with slot machines are at the top of the agenda in two Maine cities this week, as one discusses a public vote on the issue and the other hears more “racino” proposals.

Saco City Council, which has two new members, meets Wednesday to discuss scheduling a referendum. Moments after taking office Monday, Mayor Mark Johnston announced he was scheduling a special meeting on the matter.

In Bangor, three more companies that want to operate a racino at the city’s Bass Park presented proposals to council Monday night. They include Kehl Management Co. of Iowa, Delaware North Companies of Buffalo, N.Y., and Penn National Gaming Inc. of Wyomissing, Pa.

During their brief presentations, the companies each said they would be willing to step in if Capital Seven LLC fails to win a state license to operate the Bangor track. Capital Seven needs a license from the Maine Harness Racing Commission in order to install slots there.

Bangor has a $30 million development deal with Capital Seven for the racino.

The Saco City Council voted twice last month against holding a referendum asking residents if they favored allowing Scarborough Downs race track to build a new track in Saco with slot machines.

But the council has two new members, who were sworn in Monday along with Johnston. Johnston said there are now enough “yes” votes on the council to approve of a referendum to let voters decide.

Before Johnston scheduled the Wednesday meeting, outgoing Mayor William Johnson asked his former colleagues not to proceed with a vote.

“You have no more information than the previous council did,” he said. “All that glitters is not gold.”

In the Nov. 4 election, voters statewide approved a measure to allow racinos in the state if the community that would be home to the racino also gives its approval.

Scarborough Downs is looking for a new site for its track because Scarborough residents rejected a local Nov. 4 referendum to allow a racino there. Sharon Terry, the track’s owner, has approached Westbrook and Saco about having referendums in those cities.

Westbrook will hold an election Dec. 30. The vote in Saco, if approved by the council Wednesday, will also be Dec. 30. The new state law requires that towns and cities hold their referendums by the end of the year.

Residents of Bangor approved race track slot machines in June.

Many slot machine opponents don’t believe a month is enough time to educate voters or prepare absentee ballots. Opponents are also organizing an anti-racino campaign and have created a Web site.

“This is not a little bit of slot machines at a big race track,” said Charles Garland, who heads No Slots Saco. “It’s a lot of slot machines with a little bit of racing thrown in.”



On the Net:

www.noslotssaco.com

AP-ES-12-02-03 1021EST



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