Controversial Maine Casino Backer Finally Surfaces, Hires ‘Firm Behind Brexit’

Posted on: August 17, 2017, 05:00h. 

Last updated on: August 17, 2017, 02:26h.

Shawn Scott, the brains behind a bid to build Maine’s third casino, has finally stepped out of the shadows.

Sean Scott steps out of shadows in Maine Casino
Controversial figure Sean Scott (right) will be the sole beneficiary of Question 1 on Maine voters’ ballot papers in November and has hired the firm credited with winning the Brexit “Leave” campaign to help him get a “yes.” (Image: Bangor Daily News)

The controversial figure had previously hid his involvement in the project behind his sister Lisa Scott, who was listed as the sole director and financer of a successful ballot campaign for the casino.

But this week a spokesman for Progress For Maine, a newly formed pro-casino political action committee, confirmed that Shawn Scott was one of two partners that would be “leaders in the campaign over the next several months.”

Ethics Investigation

Lisa Scott is currently under investigation by the Maine Ethics Committee after it emerged that the signature-gathering campaign that forced the issue on the ballot was in fact bankrolled, not by her, but by a network of offshore companies with links to her brother.

This would be a breach of the state’s campaign disclosure laws and, if found culpable, Lisa Scott would face a hefty fine, but the casino question will remain on the ballot. In fact, it will be Question 1.

And the wording of that question is perhaps the most contentious part of this saga. It will ask voters whether a casino license should be granted to: “…an entity that owned in 2003 at least 51 percent of an entity licensed to operate a commercial track in Penobscot County that conducted harness racing with pari-mutuel wagering on more than 25 days during calendar year 2002.”

The only “entity” that fits that description, a fact voters may not be aware of, is Shawn Scott. In 2012, he bought the dilapidated Bangor Raceway for $1 million and campaigned for a referendum to authorize slots at the premises. He  and sold it a year later to Penn National for a 50 million profit, without ever applying for the slots license he had campaigned for.

‘Brexit Guru’ on Board

Needless to say, the Scotts’ shenanigans have received a lot of bad press, which is perhaps why the campaign has turned to Washington DC-based consulting firm Goddard Gunster for help.

Goddard Gunster is the company widely credited with helping, against the odds, to convince British voters to leave the European Union last June.

Its methods include in-depth demographic polling and precision target-messaging through social media and other channels. The company claims a 90 percent success rate in every referendum it has been involved in.

But organized opposition is starting to muster. An attorney hired by Churchill Downs, which owns Maine’s Oxford Casino, told Maine Public off record this week that the company would soon launch a campaign to oppose the proposed casino. Resistance is also expected from the Christian Civic League and Scott’s former buyer in Bangor, Penn National.