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Governor Proposes Powerball for Maine

Mar 8, 2004, 4:56 am

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Maine Lottery

Saturdays Megabucks jackpot was $1.6 million.  Soon jackpots will dwarf that if Maine joins the 24-state Powerball lottery game as proposed by Gov. John Baldacci.

Stephanie Brown, assistant manager at Victor News on Park Street, cant wait. The jackpot for Wednesdays Powerball drawing is $79 million.

We have many, many, many people who drive all the way to New Hampshire to buy Powerball tickets, Brown said. Youll hear some say, Do you want me to get you tickets? That bothers her. Were losing support from people in Maine.

Like a lot of convenience stores, Victor News sells lottery tickets all day, Brown said. Sales would increase if Powerball came in, she predicted. If we could get Powerball, Id be a happy person, Brown said.

Baldacci received a lot of e-mails with that kind of message Thursday. But not everyone shares the enthusiasm.

Considering the governors past positions, many were surprised to hear him propose Powerball Wednesday.

While campaigning in 2002, Baldacci opposed expanding gambling. He repeated that position last year while rejecting the referendum questions for an Indian casino and slot machines at horse tracks. Baldacci worked with CasinosNo! in opposing the Indian referendum.

Now, Casinono! intends to fight their former ally. Calling Baldaccis proposal a major flip-flop, Dennis Bailey of CasinosNo! said proposing Powerball sends the wrong message when so many are working to halt the expansion of gambling. Hes urging his followers to call or e-mail Baldacci.

Every gambling proposal claims the money will be used for a good cause, Bailey warned Thursday in an e-mail. But the issue isnt where the money goes, its where it comes from and the damage it will do to families, Bailey said. Studies show that state lotteries prey on those who can least afford it, he said.

Standing outside a hearing room at the State House Thursday, Penobscot Nation Chief Barry Dana said the governors proposal seems hypocritical. Non-Indian people have called it a slap in the face to the tribes, Dana said. Im glad hes seeing our way into economic rebound. It is a clean industry. Mainers from Fort Kent to Kittery now go to Connecticut to gamble, Dana said. The days of opposing gaming on morality are soon to be over.

Baldacci spokesman Lee Umphrey explained that the governor has resisted Powerball. But now that two out of three Tri-State Megabucks states (Vermont and New Hampshire) have joined Powerball, because of widespread support from legislators and state budget experts, and with a need to find money for property tax help, he grudgingly said OK, Umphrey said.

The governor did not want Powerball. But because of the tough economic times and desperate need for property tax relief, he found it part of the solution that was necessary.

The governor still opposes the expansion of gambling, but sees a lottery ticket as less harmful than a racino or casino, Umphrey said. Its two different things.

Adding Powerball to Maine State Lottery games was part of the supplemental budget presented Friday to lawmakers.

Sen. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, said shes not excited about it, but as a member of the Appropriations Committee, she has seen the shrinking Maine Lottery sales numbers.

Were losing a lot of revenue from people going to New Hampshire to purchase tickets. Rotundo said shell support Powerball as she did last year when the proposal passed the House and Senate but was rejected by Baldacci.

Maine people are already spending that money, Rotundo said. We should try to capture that revenue.

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