The voters in Bangor and across the state were clear in their support of racinos. But I am quite certain they did not know how racinos would be regulated under the referendum.
Some have suggested the people should be given a second chance to vote for or against racinos in a statewide referendum. That is not right. We have a political system that entrusts the voters to make decisions, and it’s nobody’s place to second-guess the November vote.
However, I fully support Gov. John Baldacci’s efforts to legislate better regulations on the new racinos than the initiated referendum included. The Maine Harness Racing Commission has been selected and appointed based on their knowledge of harness racing, not of major gambling operations, and they are not qualified, nor should they be asked to oversee these new facilities.
Also, I doubt if any voter envisioned that taxpayers should subsidize the slot machines. Yet an analysis by the Legislature’s Office of Fiscal and Policy Review suggests that the state would spend more out of the general fund on regulating racinos than it would take in. That is clearly a problem that needs correcting.
While the governor opposed the racinos from the beginning and I supported them, I have always agreed with the governor that racinos in Maine should benefit its citizens and should not become a burden on them. Nor should they be an open door to criminal activity or lax regulations.
Having the least regulated slots in the nation is not a badge that Maine should wear. In the upcoming session of the Legislature I look forward to working with the governor and my colleagues to advance a set of gaming rules that are fair to investors and protect Maine’s taxpayers and citizens.