June 23, 2018
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Calais formally backs proposed Passamaquoddy racino

By Sharon Kiley Mack, BDN Staff


CALAIS, Maine — Just as they did in 2007, Calais city councilors unanimously passed a resolution Thursday night in support of a proposed tribal racino in the city.

“All five councilors supported it,” City Manager Diane Barnes said Friday afternoon. “The city has always supported the Passamaquoddy Tribe’s effort.”

The resolution makes note of the city’s desire for “economic growth and opportunity” and recognizes the Passamaquoddy Tribe as an important economic partner in Washington County. The resolution also states that Washington County has a strong racing history but no existing track.

More than 67,000 Mainers have signed petitions asking the Maine Legislature to approve changes to Maine’s racino law to allow a tribally owned racino in Calais and a privately owned racino in Biddeford. A racino is a combination horse-racing track and casino.

Biddeford Downs, a partnership between Scarborough Downs and Ocean Properties Ltd., plans a $125 million racino west of the Maine Turnpike in Biddeford. The city’s voters approved the project in November.

State law allowed two commercial harness racetracks — Scarborough Downs and Bangor Raceway — to seek local approval to operate slot machines, but imposed a deadline of Dec. 31, 2003, for them to do so.

The proposal submitted to the Legislature would remove the deadline, as well as a stipulation that prevents competing slots within 100 miles of an Oxford casino approved in November.

Supporters of the proposed $125 million racino in Biddeford have formed a political partnership with the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Indian Township. The Biddeford group has included a provision in its initiative to allow the tribe to build a racino in Calais, on land overlooking the International Bridge and the St. Croix River.

“The project represents important hope for our people,” the Calais resolution passed Thursday night states.

The resolution, Barnes explained, will be presented to the Legislature as Calais’s request to lawmakers that they pass the statutory amendments needed to allow the racinos to be constructed.

In other business, councilors accepted the resignation from the council of Joyce Maker, who was elected last November to the state Legislature representing House District 31. They also voted to advertise the council position for appointment.

Barnes said the proposed city budget will be presented in draft form to the council at its next meeting, April 14.

“It is too early to determine how this will affect the tax rate,” Barnes said.

She said she hopes lawmakers in Augusta will settle the state budget before that date so the city will have some idea about revenues, losses and educational support.

“I’ll be bringing forward the very initial draft,” she said.

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