Maine’s three largest daily newspapers have come out in favor of a proposal on the statewide ballot next week that would allow the Passamaquoddy tribe to build a harness-racing track with slot machines in Calais.

The Sun Journal in Lewiston became the latest newspaper to favor the proposal to expand gambling in an editorial on Sunday that proclaimed “Maine has traveled past where legal gambling is a question, or even a novelty.” “The time for debating the merits of having gambling in Maine is over; it’s now time for discussions on strategies to cope with its existence,” the newspaper said. “…We want this destiny to be in the hands of the state, not gambling purveyors.”

The Maine Sunday Telegram also favored slots, along with the Bangor Daily News, which is located in the only community with slot machines. The only place where slot machines are currently allowed is Bangor, home to Hollywood Slots at Bangor, which has about 475 slot machines. State law currently allows up to 1,500 slot machines at existing commercial harness-racing tracks. The Passamaquoddy proposal would allow the same number of slots in economically challenged Washington County.

Both the Bangor Daily News and Maine Sunday Telegram focused on the inequities of keeping Indians out of gambling while allowing a private company, Penn National Gaming Inc., to operate Hollywood Slots in Bangor.

“Instead of trying to hold off what is already in Maine and growing nationally, voters should enable the Passamaquoddy Tribe and Washington County to join in hosting what is one of the fastest growing forms of recreation in the United States,” the News said.

The Telegram said it has never editorialized in favor of gambling, but it made an exception in the case of the Passamaquoddy tribe.

The newspaper noted that Maine voters in 2003 rejected an Indian-backed casino in Sanford but allowed slot machines at harness-racing tracks. “The 2003 vote has created an inequity. It’s unfair to deny the tribe this business when others in the state have been allowed to get into it. For that reason, we endorse a “yes” vote on Question 1 on Nov. 6,” the Telegram said.

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