AUGUSTA – Gambling opponents said Wednesday that voters’ refusal to allow a casino in Oxford County should close the door to more legalized gaming in Maine. But it looks like a safe bet that Mainers haven’t heard their last gaming pitch.

Voters on Tuesday rejected an initiative to allow the $184 million western Maine casino-resort, the third time they have spurned casinos since 2003. Incomplete returns showed 55 percent opposed to the Olympia Group’s project.

A spokeswoman for the Las Vegas-based company said the outcome was “terribly unfortunate.”

“I think we missed the boat,” said the Vote Yes on 2 campaign’s Pat LaMarche. She predicted that a resort-casino will be built somewhere in northern New England or Massachusetts, but not in Maine.

“We have a very unfriendly attitude toward casinos. But we also have a darned tough climate for business,” LaMarche said. “But they don’t have that problem in New Hampshire.”

Opposition leader Dennis Bailey of Casinos No! said Tuesday’s balloting “should be the definitive vote.”

Bailey said casino supporters had everything in their favor – including the promise of jobs amid a souring economy, the ability to outspend casino foes 4-to-1 and high turnout – and still lost.

“We should now get it behind us and say, ‘Maine doesn’t want casinos. Let’s start working on things that we do want,”‘ said Bailey.

“I really think Maine people made up their minds on casinos about five years ago, and Las Vegas didn’t get the memo apparently. They keep trying this thing, but Maine people are just suspicious of casinos,” Bailey said.

That seemed to be the case in Scarborough, where voters on Tuesday rejected a ballot measure proposing that slot machines be allowed at Scarborough Downs.

By a margin of about 300 votes, residents turned down a referendum proposal that would have amended the town’s zoning ordinance as a first step to allow slots at the harness racing track.

Gov. John Baldacci, who has consistently opposed any expansion of gambling in Maine, said he hopes the latest vote “would slow the numbers of these types of proposals in this state. That being said, if people decide to go through the process of gathering signatures and launching a campaign for a racino or a casino, that is their right.”

That could be in the cards, said William Nicholas, governor of Passamaquoddy Tribe’s Indian Township government.

The tribe played no part in the Oxford casino campaign. Nicholas believes the proposal was flawed from the start by questionable provisions, such as lowering the gambling age from 21 to 19, and doomed to failure.

A year ago, Nicholas’ tribe lost a referendum on a gambling and resort complex in Calais, a loss he blames in part on poor weather on Election Day. In 2003, voters shot down a plan for an Indian-run casino in Sanford, and other proposals to allow an expansion of gambling have been rejected in the Legislature before and since.

Maine’s only casino, Hollywood Slots in Bangor, is associated with a nearby harness track. Nicholas believes that gambling should not be limited to one place in Maine, and the Passamaquoddies may try again to see that it be given another chance.

“We have not given up on a casino or racino gaming as part of our economic development package,” said Nicholas. “We’re not going to give up.”


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