Lawmakers OK bill allowing slot machines at veterans organizations and fraternal clubs

Posted April 12, 2012, at 9:39 a.m.
Last modified April 12, 2012, at 4:22 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Veterans organizations and fraternal clubs would be allowed to operate as many as five slot machines under a new bill the Legislature approved Wednesday.

The House voted 88-57 to approve LD 1469 and the Senate unanimously supported the measure later Wednesday pending final approval by the Appropriations Committee, which weighs in on all bills that have a financial effect.

Gov. Paul LePage has not seen the bill, his spokeswoman said Wednesday, but it’s possible that he could veto it. In the past, the governor has said he believes voters should decide on whether to expand gambling in Maine.

Maine’s two casinos, Hollywood Casino in Bangor and the soon-to-be-built Oxford County casino, both were approved by statewide voter referendums, but a host of other proposals have been rejected by voters over the years.

Fraternal organizations have long lobbied the state for equity in gambling, saying they need the revenue to survive, and the latest bill has received bipartisan support in the Legislature.

In order to operate slot machines, groups such as the Elks Club or American Legion posts would have to apply to the state by October 2013 and pay a fee of $1,000 and a $5,000 refundable deposit to the state’s Gambling Control Board.

The machines could be used only by members and their guests.

The bill also caps the total number of slot machines at 250 statewide, not including what already exists at Hollywood Casino in Bangor and what has been approved for the casino in Oxford County.

Revenue generated by these new slot machines would be distributed as follows: 1o percent to the Gambling Control Board, 10 percent to the host municipality, 8 percent to the state’s General Fund and 2 percent would help fund gambling addiction prevention and treatment.

The rest would go to the nonprofit organization.

Not everyone is pleased with the measure.

The Christian Civic League of Maine said the bill would expand gambling in Maine without voter approval.

“This is not a veterans’ bill and legislators should not wrap the American flag around slot machines,” the group wrote in an email this week urging lawmakers to oppose LD 1469.

Follow BDN reporter Eric Russell on Twitter @BDNPolitics.

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