Passamaquodyy to earmark share of gambling proceeds for scholarships 4-4-07

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - Supporters of a proposed Indian-owned racino in Washington County said Wednesday they plan to earmark a share of its revenues for college scholarships and hope to win legislative backing for the citizen-initiated bill by a ``veto-proof'' two-thirds majority.

The Passamaquoddy Tribe said it would set aside 3.5 percent of the revenue from the harness racetrack and slot machine operation for scholarships at Washington County Community College that would be available to students statewide. Donald Soctomah, the tribe's representative in the Maine House, said the scholarship money could amount to $1 million per year.

The plan adds 2.5 percent of the tribe's racino revenue to the 1 percent that the bill already earmarks for scholarships at the college in Calais.

Chief Richard Doyle told reporters that the Passamaquoddy Tribal Council's resolution to increase the Maine Community College's share of the proceeds reflects the tribe's commitment to education.

The House of Representatives may take up the bill as soon as Thursday. Lawmakers can either enact it into law or sent it to a statewide referendum in November.

Dennis Bailey of Casinos No!, which opposes the racino, said the plan to set aside some of the revenue for scholarships was intended to gain legislative approval and deny voters the chance to make the final decision.

Gov. John Baldacci has promised to veto the bill, as he has two other pro-slots measures. A two-thirds vote in each chamber is needed to override. Backers believe they have majority support in the House and Senate, but fear it may fall short of the two-thirds threshold.

``We wanted to make sure we had as much support as possible,'' Soctomah said. ``This is the right time'' to propose the scholarships to try to persuade undecided lawmakers to back the bill, he said.

Doyle and other racino supporters said the destination resort would stimulate Washington County's long-ailing economy.

``We've heard a lot of broken promises for economic development'' in the eastern Maine region, Soctomah said.