L.D. 1111, “An Act to Allow Maine’s Harness Racing Industry to Compete with Casino Gaming,” could play a part in deciding the future of Maine’s harness racing industry.

In the 19th century, the horse was king. Mainers loved their horses and they loved to find out who had the fastest horses, often racing them on the roads and streets of towns throughout Maine. As farmers created agricultural societies tor improve Maine agriculture, they bought land for their fairgrounds, where they built trotting tracks.

The horse was transportation for our families, our worker in the field, the mover of our economy, our warrior in the battlefields and our entertainment at the trotting parks.

Between 1850 and 1875, Maine was one of the leading horse-breeding states. At one time, more than 105 Maine towns supported trotting parks; that figure is now 11, including Farmington, Skowhegan, Topsham, Union and Windsor.

Today’s horsemen and horsewomen are living examples of the agricultural heritage tied to our early agricultural societies and trotting parks. The roots of Maine’s harness racing industry are deep. The men, women, and businesses tied to this industry are an essential part of Maine’s economy. If this slice of Maine life is to flourish, then the Maine Legislature and the people of Maine need to support the mechanisms that will bring funding to the harness racing industry.

Maine’s commercial tracks need to be supported for the livelihood of many Maine families and the preservation of this industry for future generations of Maine people. It is critical that the Maine Legislature supports the Scarborough Downs racino initiative and other initiatives to ensure that harness racing will continue at a commercial track in Southern Maine. This initiative also will ensure that harness racing will continue at Maine’s agricultural fairs and at Bass Park in Bangor.

Stephen D. ThompsonHallowell

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