Maine's casino industry got its start more than a decade ago by appealing to Maine voters to help the state's agricultural sector: let harness racing tracks have slot machines and that will support horse farmers, which will keep other farmers growing hay for them and so on. The casino industry has expanded away from the tracks -- the Oxford Casino has no formal tie to harness racing -- but some $8 million a year of their revenues still makes its way to the harness racing tracks, betting parlors, and the purses awarded to the owners of race-winning horses.
As I report in this week's Maine Sunday Telegram, a lot of the horses don't benefit from this. Some 200 leave the track each year -- many at age 3, all by age 14 -- and dozens of those face an uncertain future. The animals live to be 30, but cost a lot to maintain. Some perfectly healthy horses (who were not exceptional racers) are sold for slaughter in Quebec. But horse rescuers and advocates see an opportunity for the state to deal with this problem. Details within.
I am an award-winning journalist and author of American Nations, American Character, Ocean's End, The Lobster Coast, and The Republic of Pirates. I'm a staffer at the Portland Press Herald, where I won a 2012 George Polk Award for my investigative reporting and was named a 2016 Pulitzer Prize finalist.