November 20, 2003
Petition drive seeks to void Capital Seven deal
Councilors Gerry Palmer and Annie Allen, who voted against the city’s deal with Capital Seven, have signed the petition. They have said the City Council was too quick in signing the deal after an Iowa developer approached the city only days before the Council’s Oct. 30 vote.
Petitioners have 45 business days to collect 2,274 signatures to put the City Council’s action to a citywide vote. The number of signatures represents 20 percent of Bangor voters who participated in the 2002 gubernatorial election.
City Councilor David Nealley, an employee of Capital Seven, has criticized the petition.
“So every time the minority doesn’t like a majority decision on the council they’re going to send it out to referendum?” the Bangor Daily News quoted Nealley as saying.
Scott bought a 49 percent share of Bangor Historic Raceway, the private company that manages harness racing at Bass Park, and announced a desire to overhaul the city park by rebuilding the racetrack, installing a new and enclosed grandstand, a six-story hotel, restaurant and slot machines. The businessman was the first and only developer to express an interest in reviving the once popular destination for entertainment in the city.
Last winter, the City Council granted Scott tentative developer status, giving Scott exclusive negotiating rights to develop the park. The original deadline to sign a final development deal was May 1, but the Council extended it indefinitely. Then, in September, Scott approached Brewer city officials about the possibility of building an entirely new harness racing complex in that city, across the Penobscot River from Bangor. A spokesman for Capital Seven said Scott and the company wanted a fall-back option in case they couldn’t reach a deal with Bangor.
Only days before the Bangor City Council was set to vote on and sign an agreement with Scott, an Iowa developer came forward with a proposal that, it claimed, would generate more money for the city than Scott’s proposal.
Week of November 2, 2003
Racino plan wins statewide vote
Slots coming to Bass Park, but Scarborough says no thanks
A racino at Bass Park will become a reality, thanks to Maine voters, who approved a bill to allow slot machines at the state’s harness racetracks, pending approval of voters in those towns. In June, Bangor voters approved the plan, with 57 percent in favor.
The statewide vote on Election Day was 53 percent in favor and 47 percent opposed.
Voters in Scarborough, home of Scarborough Downs, rejected the referendum, which could make Bass Park the only racetrack in the state with slots. The owners of Scarborough Downs have since announced they would like to build a new racetrack just 4 miles away in neighboring Saco, if Saco approves slots.
The Bangor City Council voted 5-3 at a special meeting on Oct. 30 to enter into an agreement with Las Vegas developer Shawn Scott and his company Capital Seven to renovate Bass Park. Scott bought a 49 percent stake in Bangor Historic Raceway last fall after announcing plans to overhaul the city-owned park on the city’s west side, which has been home to harness racing since it opened in 1883. Scott is expected to buy the rest of Bangor Historic Raceway’s shares soon. Councilor David Nealley, an employee of Capital Seven, abstained from the vote.
The last hurdle facing Scott is the Maine Harness Racing Commission, which has yet to grant Scott a permanent racing license. Scott operated Bangor Raceway this past summer with a temporary license.
Scott has not announced when slot machines will debut in Bangor. Under the bill voters passed, the racetrack could have up to 1,500 of the machines.
The machines could appear sooner in the state’s off-track betting parlors. The Legislature passed a bill with little fanfare at the end of its last session that would legalize the machines at the parlors. Gov. John Baldacci, who is from Bangor, has said he will veto the off-track bill, even though it appears as though the Legislature would have enough votes to override the veto.
Off-track betting parlors in the state are in Bangor, Brunswick, Lewiston, Sanford and Waterville.
Baldacci opposed a referendum question that would have allowed the Passamaquoddy and Penobscot American Indian tribes to build a casino. He also opposed the racino question.
After approving the installation of slot machines 57-43 percent in the June local election, 60 percent of Bangor voters supported slot machines on Election Day.