AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage threatened Tuesday to veto two gambling bills working their way through the Legislature if they wind up on his desk, saying voters, not lawmakers, should have the final say on the matter.
Both citizen-initiated bills have received favorable votes so far, setting the stage for possible if not likely legislative approval. A bill to allow racinos in Biddeford and Washington County has won a 94-49 vote of support in the House. The other bill, which would allow a casino with slots in Lewiston, has won a 78-61 endorsement in the House. Both measures awaited further votes in the House and Senate.
Their defeat automatically would send the bills to voters in November. But legislative passage would avoid the statewide referendum and the gambling enterprises could go forward.
LePage said in an interview Tuesday that supporters of the two bills need to do what past gambling promoters have done: Get voters’ approval first.
“If you want a casino in Maine, you’ve got to do what Oxford did, you’ve got to do what the racino did, you go to the people and get permission,” the Republican governor said, referring to Black Bear Entertainment’s successful initiative to build a casino in Oxford and the voter-approved racino proposal that brought about Hollywood Slots in Bangor. Other gambling proposals, notably one in 2003 in Sanford and another in 2008 in Calais, were rejected by voters. Both plans were backed by Maine Indian tribes.
“Maine people voted for one casino and one racino, and that’s what they’re getting,” LePage said. “I think the Legislature, quite frankly, has got a lot more important things to do. Let this go to the people.”
He said he has no special stake in the gambling issue, which he observed has been contentious in the past.
“I don’t gamble,” he said. “The only gambling I do is I get up in the morning and go to work and hope I get home safely. That’s my biggest gamble.”
Asked if he wants voters rather than the Legislature to decide on the two pending proposals, he said: “Absolutely … It’s got to go to the people … It’ll be a veto, no question about it.”