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“Progress For Maine” Issues York County Casino Report

Cliff S, Sep 15, 2017 02:14 UTC

“Progress For Maine” released an analysis of the York County casino’s potential economic impact on Thursday. The economic analysis predicts the new proposed casino, Vacationland Resort, will create over 2,000 jobs and at least $45 million in tax revenues each year.

The economic analysis was prepared by Evans, Carroll & Associates, a Florida consulting firm. The firm’s report comes at a time when proponents of the York County casino are collecting petition signatures for a November ballot referendum.

Critics of a new land-based casino have focused upon two of the financial backers of the referndum process: Lisa Scott and her brother, Shawn Scott. Lisa Scott recently withdrew from the campaign to support the York County casino after a probe into the campaign’s financing was launched. Shawn Scott led the campaign to gain approval for the Oxford Casino, which was opened in 2002.

York County Casino’s Benefits

Amidst the controversy, Progress For Maine wants to refocus the debate on the casino’s economic benefits. The study by Evans, Carroll & Associates predicts the gaming venue will produce 2,767 temporary construction jobs and 2,165 permanent casino jobs.

The report predicts those casino staff jobs will generate $64.4 million per year in wages for York County workers. The construction phase will generate over $100 million a year for the builders of the casino. Once the casino is built, the study predicts the 150-room hotel on the casino grounds will generate an additional $6.1 million in revenues.

$45 Million in Maine Tax Revenues

Beyond the jobs created and wages produced, the economic analysis predicts the State of Maine will receive at least $45 million annually from gambling-related tax revenues.

All in all, the York County casino should produce wide economic benefits for its surrounding area. The argument for casinos is the revenues are drawn from gamblers’ discretionary spending, so the money flows from people who can afford entertainment expenditures to workers who need the cash.

Evans & Associates’ Background

Evans, Carroll & Associates is a respected consultancy firm which has been hired by the states of New York, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin to do cost-analysis studies for local tourism-related industries. More recently, the cities of Las Vegas and Orlando hired the firm to do “gaming, travel, and tourism studies“.

The firm has come under criticism of late, because of maps it drew for the Kushner Cos, owned by President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner. The maps helped the Kushner family business qualify for a federal investment program to help struggling areas. Critics say the maps presented a skewed view of the Kushner Cos’s waterfront area in New Jersey, according to the Associated Press.

The waterfront area looks out over the water to Manhattan and has an unemployment rate of 1.3%. The maps are said to be “oddly-shaped“, so they include nearby neighborhoods which have an unemployment rate of 9.8% — enough to qualify for the federal program.

Shawn Scott and Lisa Scott’s Role

Financing for the political action committee backing “Question 1” on the November ballot is a bigger issue with Maine officials. Lisa Scott’s development company spent $4.3 million on the PAC’s public relations campaign backing the York County casino, but public officials have concerns about the ultimate source of the funding.

It is known that Shawn Scott, who built support for the Bangor’s Oxford Casino in 2002, provided Lisa Scott with the cash. What is not known is who provided the financing for Shawn Scott. Maine’s print media speculated that foreign investors invested in Shawn Scott’s project, though those speculations are unproven.

The Maine Ethics Commission

The Maine Ethics Commission voted 5-0 to investigate the source of Lisa Scott’s funding. Jonathan Wayne, the Ethics Commission’s executive director, said of the probe, “One of the compliance issues is whether Lisa Scott filed accurate and complete campaign finance reports on time.”

Faced with the probe, Lisa Scott resigned from the referendum initiative. Since the commission began probing, though, lawyers for Lisa Scott have stonewalled the investigation. Attempts to learn about Regent Able Associate Co., which donated $1 million to the casino referendum initiative, was discovered to be “someplace in Asia” — but commissioners could discover nothing more about the company.

Maine officials seem to have lost patience with the lawyers. One Ethics Commissioner, Richard Nass, accused the legal team of keeping the issue tied-up in order to justify their retainer fees. Nass said, “Somebody’s got $4.3 million on the line here. And it’s really not in your interests to let this go any further, if you can clear it up.”

“Progress For Maine” Economic Impact Report

Despite the ethics probes and possible questions about the economic impact report by Evans & Associates, there is no doubt that the York County casino will create jobs and increase tax revenues for the state. Releasing an economic impact report helps focus the debate, because it provides new specific data and talking points for supporters.

At this point, the all-important issue is the public relations campaign leading up to the vote on “Question 1”. In the coming months, the probe into Lisa Scott’s funding will grind on. Whether Maine voters care whether Asian investors are backing the casino initiative or not is another matter.

The November 7 vote is expected to be a mid-term election of unusual ferocity and interest. Whether that creates a backlash against possible corruption in the Maine casino initiative is another matter.

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