I’m writing to add my voice to the many who are asking the Legislature to vote in favor of allowing Biddeford Downs to move forward without another statewide referendum. The Biddeford Downs project is a revenue-generating venture. Maine desperately needs such ventures to get back in the black. Biddeford Downs, with a racino and resort hotel would generate an estimated $28 million for the state’s General Fund in its first year.
Secondly, Scarborough Downs, which provides about half of all racing in Maine (about 110 days per year), is being decimated by high-tech gaming and will fail if it is not allowed to compete. If the Downs fails, the 4 percent fund from Bangor that helps commercial tracks pay operating expenses terminates by existing law. Enter the domino effect: if the Downs is gone, Bangor will have to cut back racing to its statutory minimum of 26 days, which is not sufficient to sustain horse farming. Eventually the industry will be out of business. That translates to $191 million in Maine-based sales associated with the equine industry, $26 million in tax revenue, and about 4,000 current jobs – gone.
If we don’t carry out the will of the voters in the 2003 statewide referendum for fully integrated racinos, our horsemen will leave Maine for Delaware, New York and Pennsylvania, where harness racing is thriving (because slot revenues supplement purses) and Maine will remain the most non-business-friendly state in the Union. I see tumbleweeds in our future.
Susan Higgins, director of marketing