Maine Casino Backers Sue State Ethics Commission Over $500,000 Fine

Posted on: January 24, 2018, 04:00h. 

Last updated on: January 24, 2018, 03:57h.

The backers of a failed Maine casino proposal which was accused by the State Governor of “high jacking democracy” are suing the state’s Commission on Government Ethics and Election Practices in the hope of reversing the record fine it imposed on them in November.

Shawn and Lisa Scott
Shawn and Lisa Scott’s campaign to build a third casino in Maine was overwhelmingly rejected by voters in a November referendum and now they’re contesting a record fine imposed for unethical practices. (Image: The Portland Press Herald)

The commission hit Lisa Scott, sister of controversial casino entrepreneur Shawn Scott, with a $500,000 penalty for her failure to properly disclose the financing of the casino campaign, “Horseracing Jobs Fairness”.

The campaign successfully gathered the requisite number of signatures to have the question of a new casino put the ballot last November, purporting to be about safeguarding the thoroughbred racing industry.

Lisa Scott claimed to be the sole listed officer and sole financial backer of the $4.3 million signature gathering campaign, which was later found to be bankrolled by a network of companies with links to her brother.

Loaded Question

In fact, had it not been soundly rejected by voters last November, Shawn Scott would have been the only beneficiary of the ballot, due to the wording of the question.

It asked whether a casino license should go only 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.”

Only Scott would qualify, due to his brief ownership of Bangor Raceway, which he acquired cheaply and then “flipped,” selling for a huge profit after he bankrolled a successful campaign to award the track a slots license. Unfortunately for Scott, voters were not prepared to be fooled twice.

Claims of Bias

This week Lisa Scott and her lawyer Bruce Merrill complained to the courts that the fine was unreasonably high and claimed that the commission had “inaccurately determined that the reports filed by the petitioners did not substantially conform to the statute’s reporting requirements.”

The penalty is almost ten times the amount the commission has ever imposed, although the maximum fine permitted by law would have been $4.7 million.

The 12-page filing claims the commission’s decision was “affected by bias and errors of law, was arbitrary and capricious, and was in violation of constitutional and statutory provisions.”

“The penalties imposed by the final determination amount to an unconstitutionally excessive fine,” it states.