S-scardowns-012309 Downs makes pitch to York County

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SCARBOROUGH — After an effort to bring a racino to Scarborough failed by 225 votes in November, Scarborough Downs is looking at York County as a possible place to move and build a racino.
Representatives of the Downs met with town officials from a coalition of 12 York County towns Monday to share information and talk about the potential economic impact to the area, horse breeding farm owner Don Marean said Wednesday.
“I have an interest in trying to protect farms and open space and harness racing does that; it has a huge impact on the state,” Marean said.
Though he said no one “stood right up and shouted and waved a flag,” Marean said group members did ask a lot of questions.
“There was no negativity in the room,” he said.
While speaking to York County officials was his idea, Marean said Downs representatives would be happy to go anyplace they were invited in order to talk about the project.
“We are actively looking and talking to people and trying to stimulate some interest,” he said.
Ed MacColl, an attorney who represents Downs’ owner Sharon Terry, said Marean, as a “leading proponent of harness racing,” had suggested the meeting. Though he stressed it was just an “exploratory discussion,” MacColl said he thought the group had some “insightful questions” and that he was encouraged by their interest.
However, not everyone in attendance Monday was enthusiastic about the possibility.
Alfred Selectman John Sylvester said Wednesday he’s “voted against a racino every time. The voters of the state have spoken on numerous occasions.”
Waterboro Selectman Jon Gale said he hasn’t supported casinos in the past, but thought it was worth listening to the Downs presentation. He said the attraction is in the money the racino might generate at a time when towns are strapped and the job market is in decline. But he added he’s not sure the extra police and fire protection and “the other things that come along with it” are worth it.
The group CasinosNO! mounted a campaign last year against both a racino in Scarborough and a casino in Oxford County. Its organizer, Dennis Bailey, on Wednesday said the Downs “should just give it up.”
“In this economy, gambling revenues are plummeting and it seems like definitely the wrong time to encourage people to throw their money away,” he said.
If the Downs does find another home, MacColl said the more than 500 acres of Scarborough property would be put up for sale.
“There’s no question (the land) is of great importance and interest to the community whether the Downs is part of it or not,” Scarborough Town Manager Tom Hall said Wednesday.
Hall said town officials have invited representatives of the Downs to talk about the future of the property and how it could best be developed.
“We don’t want to push them to that, but we’re ready and willing,” Hall said. “We hope they take us up on it; their initial reaction was positive.”
Scarborough Economic Development Corp. President Harvey Rosenfeld has also offered to talk with Downs representatives. Rosenfeld said he’s always thought the property is a great site for commercial or mixed-use development, but a lot would need to be done in terms of infrastructure.
“If that came available, we’d certainly want to work with them and help them with that project,” Rosenfeld said.

Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or proberts@theforecaster.net.