2013-07-12 / Letters

Downs deserves ‘level-headed dialogue’

To the editor:

Who doesn’t read, with interest, their weekly hometown newspaper? It’s a great way to connect with what’s happening around town.

In time, you come to know personalities and recognize people’s fears, insecurities, and disappointments. I read about the new Facebook page created: No Again.

I agree with No Again, but with a different spin. I’d like to say “no again” to an emotional campaign that divides the town and distorts the truth.

Instead, how about an honest discussion that brings those concerned to the track and the table for a level-headed discussion. I believe that much can be learned from both sides of the issue.

In the new Facebook page started by Susan Foley-Ferguson, she said, “Scarborough has a lot to boast about, that’s why I chose to live here. On a daily basis we have birders, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and visitors from the Portland region coming to Scarborough,” adding, “Scarborough has beautiful beaches, a new fishing pier and working waterfront, more than 850 acres of conserved land and good schools. Those are qualities a town should not take for granted.”

I completely agree with her. I’ll also add, we have a unique harness race track that has been in Scarborough 63 years, long before Foley-Ferguson and I were born. Scarborough Downs has been here, giving generously to our community. They were here when we chose to move here.

Scarborough Downs is Maine’s largest harness race track. Harness racing preserves farms, provides livelihoods and prevents urban sprawl.

Harness racing is why we’re able to have our beloved agricultural fairs – those destination events that natives and tourists love. The addition of electronic gaming increases the winning purse, so that horsemen, breeders and farms stay here in Maine. In short, harness racing is an integral part of our landscape, protecting the very things that Foley- Ferguson and I enjoy.

To suggest the addition of electronic gaming would change what’s great about Scarborough is to evoke an unreasonable fear that simply isn’t so. What you may not realize is Scarborough has hosted legalized gambling both on and off the track longer than any other community in Maine. Simulcast gambling takes place 363 days per year, without incidence.

If you haven’t visited the track, please go. If you haven’t met owner Sharon Terry, her family and staff – please do so, before you judge that another push for slots will be the demise and shame of Scarborough.

Scarborough Downs’ repeated efforts to add electronic gaming is no different than the multiple votes for the new Wentworth School and more recent second vote for the school budget. Scarborough Downs needs slots to compete; they’d like community support.

Communities that host gaming have enjoyed the proceeds they bring to the community.

What brought the Wentworth School project and the school budget to multiple second votes was the concern of rising property taxes.

Gaming proceeds could provide tax relief. For the good of the community, I hope the No Again folks will engage in level-headed dialogue. Scarborough Downs deserves nothing less.

Karen Vachon, Scarborough

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