Scarborough Downs owner teams with developer for proposed Biddeford racino

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BIDDEFORD — The owner of Scarborough Downs and real estate developer Ocean Properties announced plans Wednesday for a racino and 200-room hotel complex on 85 acres of city-owned property in Biddeford.

The announcement comes after the owner of Scarborough Downs put 400 acres of property up for sale in Scarborough and announced a desire to move the harness racing track to Biddeford.

The proposed location for the racino and hotel complex, called Biddeford Downs Racino, is a city-owned parcel of land west of the turnpike off Andrews Road in Biddeford. Racino spokeswoman Crystal Canney said the complex’s value is estimated at $120 million.

“Right now, this is just a conversation with Biddeford voters to see if they want to bring jobs to the city,” Canney said.

The proposal is a partnership between Sharon Terry of Scarborough Downs and the Walsh family of Ocean Properties, which owns the Samoset Resort in Rockland and other hotels around the state, and estimates that the complex would bring 500 full-time jobs to the area.

“I wouldn’t put much stock in those numbers,” said Dennis Bailey, Executive Director of CasinosNO! which opposes casinos in Maine. “These things kill as many jobs as they create.”

Bailey said Bangor, where the only current racino in the state, Hollywood Slots, is located, has seen an increase in crime and unemployment since the racino opened in 2005.

“The money people spend in the casino would have been spent somewhere else,” Bailey said.

Before the developers can break ground in Biddeford, there are a number of significant hurdles they must jump.

Biddeford voters will be asked in November if they approve of a racino in their town. A similar referendum was rejected by Scarborough voters in 2003 and again in 2008.

If the town-wide referendum is approved in Biddeford, it would then have to go before the Legislature for approval and would likely be sent out for a state-wide referendum.

A similar referendum is currently before Maine voters for a casino in Oxford County. If that casino is approved, it would prohibit construction of any casinos within 100 miles of the complex, which would include the proposed Biddeford Downs Racino.

“They’re going to have to change the law if the Oxford one passes,” Bailey said.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or