Ethan: Are you surprised that the backers of the Lewiston casino may be fined tens of thousands of dollars for deceiving the public about where their investors were from? Not me.
Phil: Me neither. The amount of money these things can suck out of an economy to line the pockets of out-of-state investors is unbelievable. It allegedly motivates some people to go to long unethical (and apparently illegal) lengths to achieve their goals.
Ethan: When you think about it, it really is telling what these guys reportedly did. They may have illegally reported false donors in order to hide the fact that money was coming from these three sketchy dudes from Maryland and Oklahoma. And then they funneled that money to some shell organization in Arlington, Va., with nothing but a PO box, which was paid to do all the media.
Phil: Plus, these local guys were clearly in it to simply cash out, as opposed to helping Lewiston. My sense is that the deal was made for the local folks to flip as soon as it passed and cash out. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Ethan: I’ve never understood why any Democrat supports this form of wealth transfer from the poor and middle class to the wealthy.
Phil: Or why anyone thinks all these investors are going to invest their money into Maine. What these guys were up to reminds me of Shawn Scott. You remember him, don’t you?
Ethan: Remind me.
Phil: He was the out-of-stater who came to Maine and got the petition drive underway to bring a “racino” to Bangor. Remember, it was supposed to help the horse racing industry and little old ladies who couldn’t afford prescription drugs?
Ethan: Ah, yes. Now I remember. Didn’t he cash in for tens of millions by selling his rights to Penn National Gaming before vacating our fair state?
Phil: That’s the guy. Funny how voters thought they were approving a few slots at the track, and it turns out they got a mega complex along the banks of the Penobscot River. And lo and behold, most of the money is flowing out of state faster than the current into Penobscot Bay.
Ethan: Now that I think of it, how about the casino in Oxford? You know the one passed by voters because this one was supposed to be different? It was financed by local Maine investors with revenue staying in the Maine economy. Didn’t they just cash in like Scott by selling to Churchill Downs, another out-of-state enterprise for tens of millions? So much for local owners in the store, so to speak.
Phil: Don’t forget, my friend, the quest for a casino still thrives for one town in southern Maine, and, of course, both candidates for Lewiston mayor support one in their hometown.
Ethan: Which brings me back to where I began. If casinos are so good, why do these guys always seem to have to resort to shady activities? Illegal donations. False promises. Skipping town as soon as the voters aren’t looking. No wonder one of the biggest casinos in Vegas is called “The Mirage.”
Phil: Good question, grasshopper. Maybe it’s because the quest by a few to enrich themselves at the expense of the average Mainer is so powerful that the ends justify the means in their own minds.
Ethan: Seems that way. Where does it end? A casino in every city service center in Maine?
Phil: At some point the market saturates, and one or more may fail. Then what? Host communities may have to face the reality that casinos are built on losers at the table, not by get-rich-quick specialists who have taken the money and left.
Ethan: Wow, every once in a while you cause me to pause and think that your brand of Republicanism is worth emulating on a grander scale.
Phil: That is as likely as you pulling the slot machine lever and winning a million dollars.