Maine casino promoters outspend foes 10-1

Posted Oct. 13, 2010, at 3:10 p.m.
Last modified Nov. 02, 2010, at 5:04 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Supporters of the Oxford County casino question on the November ballot are outspending their opponents 10-to-1, according to reports to state campaign regulators.

Political action committee reports filed by Tuesday night’s deadline with the state Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices indicate pro-casino PAC Maine Taxpayers Taking Charge has raised $2.1 million, while two PACs fighting the casino proposal have raised about $180,000.

Question 1 on the Nov. 2 ballot is the fourth state referendum proposal since 2003 to allow a major casino with slots and table games. The other three were rejected by voters.

The pro-casino PAC has spent virtually all of its money on the high-profile campaign, according to the quarterly report. Its biggest contributions are from the proposed casino’s partners and investors, including Stephen Barber, former president of Barber Foods; Robert Lally Jr., a co-owner of Mount Abram ski resort; Jim Boldebrook, founder of Creative Broadcast Concepts advertising in Biddeford; and Bob Bahre and his son Gary, former owners of the New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon and the Oxford Plains Speedway in Maine.

Citizens Against the Oxford Casino PAC reported $150,000 in total cash contributions and $115,000 spent, while Casinos NO! has taken in $30,250 and spent just over $34,000 over the course of the campaign.

Contributions by those and other casino opponents add up to less than 10 percent of the total reported by casino proponents, but Casino No!’s Dennis Bailey said that doesn’t bother him.

“We’ve always been outspent 3-, 4-, 5-to-1,” Bailey said.

Bailey said he’s encouraged by polling that puts his side further ahead than it was at the same stage in past campaigns battling against gambling proposals. “We have not started advertising yet,” said Bailey. “I think once we are up on TV those numbers will change.”

Yes on 1 treasurer Lally said his side’s funding edge helps to bolster it for the “hot and heavy” spending he expects to see from the other side as the campaign enters its final phase.

“There’s no question they are going to spend aggressively in the last couple of weeks and we are ready for it,” Lally said.

The reports coincided with a debate Wednesday over the proposed $165 million casino before the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, which has yet to take a position on the ballot question.

Money also continued to flow through PACs helping to promote races for state offices, principally governor. Combined contributions to Democratic and Republican PACs exceed $1 million during the July-September quarter.

The Democratic State Committee took in $458,423 during the reporting period, for a total of more than $850,438 for the election cycle. The Republican State Committee reported contributions of $576,285 during the quarter for a total of $782,502. So far, the Republicans have spent $430,162 while the Democrats spent $482,288.

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