AUGUSTA – Horse farmer and state Rep. Donald Marean, R-Hollis, hauled a trailer with horses to the State House on Thursday, hoping to soften Gov. John Baldacci’s resolve to veto a northern Maine tribal casino at a harness racing track.

He didn’t.

Baldacci announced Thursday that he had vetoed L.D. 1573, which was passed last week by the House and Senate to allow a Passamaquoddy Tribe casino with 1,500 slot machines and horse track in Washington County.

“To many, this may not be a popular decision, but I need to follow my conscience,” Baldacci said. Gambling carries social costs that Maine cannot afford, he said. “My heart tells me and the research shows that the costs outweigh the benefits.” He added that wherever casinos are located, those costs include increased bankruptcies, crimes or divorces.

“Investing in our people – not slot machines – will lead to good paying jobs with benefits,” Baldacci said, adding that Maine owes its children more than the false hope that slot machines would bring.

Passamaquoddy Tribe Rep. Frederick Moore said Thursday he was “very disappointed the governor couldn’t reconcile his personal position with that of the Maine voters and the Legislature.”

Moore and others will now scramble to try to override the veto before the June 15 adjournment, and possibly bring the question to referendum this November.

“We’d like to give the voters an opportunity to have a people’s override.” If that effort isn’t successful this year, the tribes will keep trying “the next session or the next after that. We’ll never go away and we’ll never give up,” Moore said.

Baldacci also wasn’t budging.

The governor pledged to veto any bill that reaches his desk that expands gambling, such as the one passed by the House to allow charity organizations to hold high-stakes poker games. “I can’t allow it because I don’t think it’s good for the people of Maine.”

The only way another racino or casino could be built in Maine – besides the one being developed in Bangor after it was approved in referendum – would be if it was approved in a statewide referendum, Baldacci said. And the only way he’d allow a referendum bill is if it was passed by a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate.

While some legislators have said the state is being hypocritical by promoting Maine State Lottery tickets and Powerball games, Baldacci said a casino or racino is more damaging.

Casino or racino gambling “is 24-hours a day, seven days a week. All the studies have shown the negative consequences. There’s a big difference,” Baldacci said.

Meanwhile, Baldacci pledged to boost the economy in Washington County, the poorest county in Maine and the one with the highest unemployment rate.

He announced Thursday that he has appointed former gubernatorial candidate David Flanagan to be his personal representative to Washington County to expedite an economic development action plan.

Flanagan, former head of Central Maine Power, will work with county businesses and tribal leaders; mobilize state agencies; work on road and bridge projects; promote eco-tourism, agriculture and aquaculture; foster higher education; develop defense contracting jobs; and help to develop a world-class recreational trail connecting Calais to Ellsworth, Baldacci said.

The governor will hold regular meetings with Washington County leaders to monitor progress, he said.

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