BANGOR – As voters in two communities went to the polls to vote on a racino in southern Maine, the operator of the Bangor Raceway was sued over a decision to allow a Las Vegas developer to create a racino in Bangor.
The lawsuit by Newport-based NTL Investments LLC accuses Bangor Historic Track of backing out of a 2001 “handshake agreement” that would have allowed NTL to build and operate a slot machine facility.
The lawsuit was filed in Penobscot County Superior Court a day before voters in Saco and Westbrook cast their ballots after an aggressive campaign by Scarborough Downs, which is looking for a community willing to accept slot machines.
According to the lawsuit, the Bangor agreement was contingent on adoption of a state referendum question allowing use of the machines at the state’s two commercial racetracks.
Bangor Historic Track ultimately teamed up with Shawn Scott and his company, Capital Seven LLC, instead of NTL. A referendum question drafted by Capital Seven was approved by voters last month.
Capital Seven took full ownership of all shares of Bangor Historic Track earlier in December, and Scott is going through a racing license hearing before the Maine Harness Racing Commission.
But in August 2001, NTL says it had an informal agreement with the Bangor track regarding use of video lottery terminals.
NTL investors Elton Nason, George Lovely and Robert Tardy, all of Newport, drafted a referendum question, built support in the harness-racing industry for the proposal and collected 20,000 signatures in an effort to put the question on the ballot.
Tardy, a lobbyist for Scarborough Downs, estimated the investors spent $20,000, mostly on a petition drive.
In May 2002, Nason, Lovely and Tardy signed a final draft of the agreement and sent it to the Bangor Historic Track owners, who indicated they had signed it, according to the complaint.
A month later, Bangor Historic Track indicated it would work with Scott and Capital Seven instead of NTL, the complaint said. Capital Seven drafted a new referendum question, and Scott funded a signature campaign to get the question on the November 2003 ballot.
“At some point they found someone to marry them that had a lot more money to throw around than we did. They dropped us – sold out to Shawn Scott,” Tardy said.
Capital Seven issued a press release Monday calling the suit frivolous and blaming Scarborough Downs for its appearance.
“It’s Capital Seven’s position that Scarborough Downs is behind the suit,” said Scott spokeswoman Christen Graham.
Graham also said there was never a signed agreement to move ahead with the slot machine partnership. Tardy said Monday that his employer, Scarborough Downs, was not involved in the suit.