The groups behind the Maine casino push to place a gambling facility in York County have been fined a record $500,000 by the state’s Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices.

Maine casino ethics Shawn Scott

Shawn Scott went on public radio recently to defend his Maine casino efforts, but a state agency says his group is operating a shady campaign. (Image: Andrew Catalina/Maine Public)

The commission said testimony provided by those who were supposedly running the casino movement, known as Horseracing Jobs Fairness, contradicted evidence it discovered in emails, texts, and financial records, which were obtained through subpoenas.

Voters will decide tomorrow whether to approve ballot Question 1 and allow a casino to be built in York County. If they do, only one company would qualify for the gaming license, an entity named Capital Seven, LLC, that is controlled by businessman Shawn Scott.

The five-member commission ruled that the groups behind the gambling drive purposely tried to mislead the general public and failed to disclose who was actually funding Horseracing Jobs Fairness’ $4.2 million bankroll. Maine law mandates that political committees fully disclose their sources of money and identify all donors.

The $500,000 fine is almost ten times larger than the commission’s previous record fine.

The Scott Family

Scott’s involvement is the basis for the state ethics commission investigation. He’s well known to Mainers, as he successfully convinced voters in 2003 to approve a ballot question to allow him to bring slot machines to the Bangor horse racetrack, which he owned at the time. After receiving the gambling permit, he quickly sold it to Penn National Gaming for $51 million and skipped town.

Lisa Scott has been the face of the Maine casino campaign over the last two years, originally claiming to be a Miami real estate developer. Until April, Horseracing Jobs Fairness’ financial records claimed Lisa as the sole backer of the Maine casino drive.

But upon further inquiry, a money trail led state investigators to transactions coming from multiple offshore bank accounts in the Cayman Islands, one being a $3,055,865 payment from Capital Seven to Lisa Scott. She claimed it was a loan on state campaign records, but the ethics commission isn’t buying it.

“Very little is known about Capital Seven other than that Shawn Scott is its sole owner and that it is the only entity that can apply for a license to operate a casino in York County under the terms of the proposed legislation,” the ethics commission explained.

“Thus, Capital Seven is the only entity that stands to benefit directly if the casino initiative passes. Shawn Scott played a key decision-making role in the campaign, as evidenced by numerous communications.”

Maine Politics

As is the case in two dozen states, Maine citizens can initiate legislation through petitions. If the state legislature doesn’t act on a successful petition, which requires 61,000 signatures in Maine, the issue can go before voters.

The question before voters tomorrow asks, “Do you want to allow a certain company to operate table games and/or slot machines in York County, subject to state and local approval, with part of the profits going to the specific programs described in the initiative?”

But the “ballot summary,” aka fine print, adds that only “an entity that owned in 2003 at least 51 percent of an entity licensed to operate a commercial track in Penobscot County” would qualify for the license. That leaves Shawn Scott as the sole applicant.