Gambling efforts lose in Maine, win support in New Jersey
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Efforts to expand gambling to shore up strapped municipal finances and help job creation headed for defeat in Maine voting on Tuesday while New Jersey voters cast their support for sports betting.
With 73 percent of the votes counted, Maine voters rejected two ballot questions that would have expanded the number of licensed gambling halls in the state to five from two.
One question asked Maine voters to approve creation of two "racinos," or harness racing tracks with slot machines located about 250 miles apart in coastal Maine.
It was rejected by 56 percent of the votes counted, according to unofficial results compiled by the Bangor Daily News.
Nearly 64 percent of Maine voters rejected a second question on allowing a casino with slot machines and table games such as craps and roulette in Lewiston, a former center of the textile industry and the state's second-largest city.
New Jersey voters, meanwhile, were asked if they wanted to seek to overturn a federal law prohibiting sports betting.
With votes in five of the state's 21 counties tallied, some 90,000 voters approved the measure with about 55,000 opposed.
By late evening votes had been tallied so far in Cape May, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Salem and Union counties.
If the referendum passes as expected, it is a step toward making it legal to gamble on professional, college or amateur sporting events by placing bets at casinos and racetracks.
Such betting is outlawed by federal law except in Nevada and Delaware. Approval would set the stage for New Jersey to file a lawsuit to overturn the federal ban within its borders as well.
Sports gaming generated $151 million in gross gaming revenue for Nevada in 2010, according to the American Gaming Association.
Also in Maine, voters in Penobscot County, home to the state's only licensed slot machine parlor, appeared set to approve a question that would allow the Bangor facility to expand to include table games like blackjack.
A second gambling parlor with table games was narrowly approved last year and is due to open this spring in the western town of Oxford.
Owners of both the Bangor and Oxford establishments helped finance opposition to the proposed gambling halls on this year's ballot.
(Additional reporting by Jason McLure and Tim Sohn. Writing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Editing by Peter Bohan)
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