Documents reveal true backers of drive for a 2nd slots parlor
The $3.2 million campaign to open a second slots parlor in Massachusetts has been secretly financed by a team of developers who brought gambling to Maine and whose casino in Laos was seized by the government last year amid corruption allegations, new campaign finance documents show.
The documents not only show new spending on the ballot measure by the casino developers, but also revise an earlier filing to show that they have been funding the campaign since its earliest days, contradicting claims by the measure’s chief promoter.
The revised filing reports that much of the financing came from Bridge Capital LLC. The referendum campaign had originally said its financing was from a Delaware company called Capital Productions LLC.
Bridge Capital is an offshore investment firm run by John K. Baldwin and Shawn Scott, casino developers whose previous projects, court records show, have left a trail of litigation from Guam to Washington, D.C.
Scott is known for spearheading a successful referendum effort that brought slot machines to Maine, but receded from public view after failing to win casino licenses in several states amid concerns about his associates and his background.
Until now, the main proponent for Question 1, which would pave the way for a slots parlor to be built in Revere near the Suffolk Downs racetrack, had denied involvement by Scott or his partners, even though his campaign strategy appeared to be taken from Scott’s playbook.
Eugene A. McCain Jr., a developer who moved from Thailand to Revere to push for the ballot question, told the Globe last month that the men were not involved in the effort.
“Right now, I’m the guy doing this,” he said. “This is Gene McCain’s project.”
The men’s involvement emerged from financial disclosures filed Wednesday with the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance. It was unclear what spurred the filing, which was not due until Monday at midnight, when it might easily have gone unnoticed until after the election.
On Tuesday, the Globe had asked McCain to comment on revelations that he had been involved with the casino owners in their long-running financial and legal dispute with the government of Laos. McCain had previously told the Globe that he had not been involved with a casino project before Revere.
McCain and his campaign committee chairman, Jason Osborne, have not returned calls since. Lawyers who represented the casino owners in Laos and Baldwin and Scott in other ventures did not return phone calls, either.
A Globe review of legal documents had found that McCain provided testimony for the casino owners in their case against the Laotian government. An international tribunal’s decision in the case, available online, cited McCain’s testimony saying he was sent by the casino group to a Bangkok engineering firm to obtain information about a potential competitor casino in February 2015. The casino group used his witness statement — ultimately unsuccessfully — to build a case that the Laotian government was violating their contract by giving tacit approval to a competitor.
That litigation began when the casino owners disputed their share of gambling proceeds and led to government countercharges of money laundering, embezzlement, corruption, and bribery.
Both sides abandoned their claims in a 2014 agreement that required the casino to be sold to buyers with no connection to Baldwin, Scott, or any of their companies or associates and that called for Hoolae Paoa, a third principal, to be fired and barred from profiting from the proceeds of the casino’s sale. Baldwin’s group is still trying to recover the sale price of the casino, which the government seized and sold.
McCain previously told the Globe that neither Scott nor Paoa was involved in the Revere project, even though he acknowledged they had joined him when he originally scouted properties there last year. He also acknowledged that he had worked with Scott in Hawaii, acting as a real estate broker for his investment team.
In the Massachusetts campaign, McCain had distanced himself from Scott, who failed to win a casino license in Bangor after a 2003 report listed concerns about his history of lawsuits, the financial management of his past companies, and the criminal background of his partner, Hoolae Paoa. Still, Scott was able to sell the Bangor track, which he had bought for $1.5 million, to a national gambling company for $51 million.
He also bought a struggling race track in Louisiana for $10 million and sold it for $130 million.
Paoa and Baldwin also tried unsuccessfully to bring a slots parlor to a dog track in Guam, launching a long-running battle that led to defamation lawsuits against two of their opponents. Baldwin ultimately lost his case before the Supreme Court of Guam.
McCain’s proposal has been met with widespread skepticism in Revere. Mayor Brian M. Arrigo led city officials in opposing the plan, which Revere voters defeated in an initial but nonbinding special election.
Wynn Resorts, which is building a resort casino in nearby Everett, had contributed $30,000 to oppose the ballot question as of Oct. 27. Additional contributions could still be made before the election, as both sides make their final cases to voters.
Wednesday’s campaign finance filing shows that McCain’s “Horse Racing Jobs and Education Committee” has raised and spent $3.2 million, with $1.27 million coming directly from Bridge Capital. The firm is currently based in the Northern Mariana Islands, an American commonwealth in the Pacific Ocean where Baldwin now lives.
Except for $450 in contributions from McCain, the remaining donations came from Regent Able Associate Co. and its principals, who are based in Japan and Cambodia, through a firm called Miami Development Concepts LLC. Miami Development Concepts is registered to a Lisa Scott. Scott has a sister named Lisa who lives in Miami, according to news reports.