Ethics Commission to Seize Maine Casino Backer’s Financial Records

Posted on: August 13, 2017, 10:00h. 

Last updated on: August 13, 2017, 10:08h.

Maine’s ethics commission has voted to subpoena the personal financial records of Lisa Scott, the backer of a contentious casino project that politicians have accused of attempting to deceive the state’s voters.

Ethics Commission to Investigate Shawn Scott’s sister, Lisa
Controversial casino entrepreneur Shawn Scott is believed to be behind the bid to establish Maine’s third casino, in York County. The committee wants to look into his sister Lisa’s personal account to see exactly where the money to fund the casino campaign came from. (Image: Bangor Daily News)

In the forthcoming November ballot, state residents will be asked to decide whether the proposed casino, which would be the state’s third, should be authorized.

Scott, a Florida property developer, was listed as the sole director and financier of a $4.2 million signature-gathering campaign that was ultimately successful in getting the question on the ballot.

But the commission wants to look more closely at the source of the campaign’s funding. Amended filings it received from the campaign in April, after the referendum had been attained, showed it had in fact been partly bankrolled by a complex web of offshore companies, a violation of the state’s disclosure laws.

Scott claimed in her defense that she did not understand the reporting requirements.

Loaded Question

Scott’s campaign, Horseracing Jobs Fairness, claimed its mission was to safeguard the employment interests of the horseracing industry, but the question that will appear on the ballot appears to be tailored to benefit one person only, Lisa Scott’s brother, Shawn.

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.”

Shawn Scott, a casino entrepreneur based in the Northern Mariana Islands, bought the rundown Bangor Raceway in Penobscot County in 2012 for just $1 million. He then campaigned for a referendum to authorize slots at the raceway, and sold it a year later to Penn National for $51 million, without ever getting a license.

It’s estimated that a casino license for York County, the proposed location of the new casino project could be worth some $150 million.

Scott’s Lawyer Objects

Lisa Scott’s lawyer, Bruce Merrill, told the commission he believed it was acting beyond its remit in demanding personal financial records which are largely unrelated to the campaign.

“It’s hard for me to have (Lisa Scott) arguing, ‘Hey you shouldn’t see this because I’ve mixed my personal records and other business records in with this,’” replied Commissioner William Lee.

“…She could have completely avoided that risk had the money went directly to Horseracing Jobs Fairness or created a separate entity that had no other existence, and then we wouldn’t be asking for records from something that may have other records mixed in with it.

“She did this, we didn’t do this,” he added.

Should the commission discover Scott has violated state law, it would have the power to fine her but it cannot have the question removed from the ballot.

Last year the same network of companies behind Horseracing Jobs Fairness was fined $125,000 by the Massachusetts Ethics Committee for attempting to conceal the involvement of a company linked to Shawn Scott in an unsuccessful bid to build a slots parlor in the state.