On October 14th, 2007, at a Chinese restaurant within the boundary of the Canadian border, Tanya McLaughlin does not think twice to say that the local residents want to legalize gaming in their area. The proposed referendum would allow up to 1,500 slot machines at an Indian owned racing track casino facility in Kwong Wah.
A lot of people will also have the opportunity to look for work. With the November 6th, 2007 election approaching, debate about the issue is spreading all throughout the state on whether or not to allow the Passamaquoddy Tribe from Maine to construct a casino/resort style complex which has slot machines and a horse racing track.
Backers of the plan have started a campaign that relies on phone calls, public debates and even personal appearances. Maine's county in the easternmost area is having a lot of problems economically and wants to overhaul itself with a racino or a horse racing track with slot machines and other casino games.
William Nicholas, the governor of the Passamaquoddy Tribe's Indian Township government said that there have been previous promises made by state officials for Washington County but nothing has been fulfilled. The tribe is currently spearheading the campaign and is prepared to look for additional investors for the gambling complex if the voters will give permission to the 1,500 slot machines.
The only other area where the slot machines are allowed is in Bangor, which is the location of the Hollywood Slots in the Bangor Raceway. State rules allows up to 1,500 slot machines only at commercial racing tracks.
Nicholas said that they are not asking for charity, adding that the racino would contribute millions of dollars into the state's treasury and allocate a part of the profits for the state colleges and scholarships. By any standards, the economy of Washington County is considered to be the worst one in Maine, a picture of adverse decline in the seafood and paper manufacturing industry.
The latest problem came up when the Domtar Corporation in Baileyville announced their plans to remove about 150 jobs. A study on poverty made by the State Planning Office states that Washington County, with a total population of less than 34,000 residents in 2000 had the biggest loss of jobs in the state with 462 job cuts between the year 2001 and 2005. Washington County had the smallest average earnings ($24,909) in 2004 and the biggest percentage of unemployment (8.4%) in 2005. It also had the biggest food stamp use in 2006(20%) while 55% of the school children were in subsidized school meal programs.
In Calais, which is in St. Croix River that has the border with New Brunswick, there are a lot of empty storefronts in the downtown area. The executive director of the St. Croix Valley Chamber of Commerce Linda Corey said that there are only a few exceptional employment opportunities in the area so they are backing the referendum.
11/04/2007 04:57 PM