State spends millions to sway flinty Mainers to spend more on lottery tickets

Scratch tickets advertise themselves, say convenience store owners, with flashy designs and ‘carnival barking’ intended to catch the eye and attract impulse buys. These tickets are on display at the Waite General Store in Washington County.

When the state lottery began in 1973, Mainers were not buying tickets at the rate officials had counted on. The state’s response, which continues to today, was to spend millions on marketing and ad campaigns to entice once-flinty Mainers to gamble on long-odds tickets in hopes of getting rich quick. The lottery has more than tripled its in-state advertising expenditures since 2003. It now budgets $3.5 million a year for promoting its Maine and Tri-State lotto games, big jackpot draw games it operates with New Hampshire and Vermont. Continue Reading →

University study proves Maine’s lottery amounts to a multi-million-dollar tax on the poor

Shop co-owners Wayne Seidl (front right) and Joe Ruff (back right) talk with a customer at the Waite General Store. Residents of the small Washington County town of Waite, pop. 101, purchase more lottery tickets per capita than any other town in the state, according to lottery sales data.

A first-ever statistical analysis of Maine Lottery sales figures and census data by Cornell University and commissioned by The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting shows that lottery ticket sales go up when people lose their jobs. For every one percent increase in joblessness in a given zip code, sales of scratch and draw tickets jump 10 percent. Continue Reading →

Maine’s future with Irving

Illustration by Joe Strassler

If the giant, ever-growing Irving corporations were to have a larger presence in Maine, what effects might there be on Mainers' daily life? Our final story in this three-part series looks at the Irving companies' growing domination of Aroostook County and Maine politics and the corporate giant's potential effects in Maine's marketplace, in the state's political world and, possibly, in the news media. Continue Reading →

Irving lost mining battle, but history says Canadian corporate giant will not give up

Oil tanks at the Irving Oil refinery in St. John, New Brunswick.

"Expansion is the thing" was the motto of K.C. Irving, the twentieth-century tycoon who created the Irving family empire. An investigation by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting of the Irving-family domination of its New Brunswick homeland and of its growing economic and political influence in Maine suggests that this is still its motto — and that Maine is its expansion target. Continue Reading →

New Brunswick, Irving company province

J D. Irving headquarters (tan building on left) dominates St. John, New Brunswick, where an Irving Oil sign stands at an entrance to the city.

Several books and a Canadian-government report have noted that the Irving family business' power over the province of New Brunswick is probably unparalleled in the developed world. Our reporter, Lance Tapley, spent a number of days in the province, getting an unusual tour of the Irving refinery, and talking with both critics and supporters of Irving’s influence in the province. Continue Reading →

Lewiston-Auburn ground zero in war against lead poisoning of kids

The dilapidated condition of Lewiston and Auburn's housing has contributed to a childhood lead poisoning rate that's stubbornly high.

While the state’s public health efforts to fight childhood lead poisoning have been more successful in Bangor, Portland, Saco, Biddeford and Sanford, where the rates of lead poisoning have gone down in the past 20 years, the rates of childhood lead poisoning in Lewiston and Auburn remain stubbornly high. Continue Reading →

Feds rarely enforcing law that protects Maine homeowners from lead poisoning

Keith Dill (left) and Chris Bowden (right) from Renovate Right Construction scraping lead paint on a Sabattus house and vacuuming it with a HEPA vacuum

Part three of four: The 2010 law, the “Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule,” requires that contractors must be trained in and follow lead-safe practices that prevent the spread of lead particles during home renovations. But a Maine Center for Public Reporting investigation has found that the law is widely unenforced, a fact even the federal agency that administers the law admits. Continue Reading →

State expert: ‘Not doing enough’ to eliminate lead poisoning

Marisa Nadeau and two youngest boys, James (left) and Joshua

Part two of four: From 2003 through 2013, 1,512 Maine children, from newborns to 5 year olds, were diagnosed with lead poisoning. Starting this year, the numbers of lead-poisoned children will rise by hundreds more cases annually, as the state lowers the blood lead level that triggers a diagnosis.

What’s being done to solve the problem? Continue Reading →

The problem for Maine kids that won’t go away: lead paint poisoning

CEILING brighter

Part one of four: Childhood lead poisoning may be off the front pages, replaced by trendier hazards such as the chemicals in flame retardant clothing, but the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting has found it is still the No. 1 toxic health hazard for children. The problem is acute and persistent in parts of Maine, especially among poor and immigrant families. Continue Reading →

Irving: No more ‘oil trains’ in Maine

Jackman Railroad Photo 2

Irving Oil has stopped and has no plan to resume shipping oil to its Canadian refinery via Maine rail lines. The decision was made earlier this year and confirmed recently in an email to the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting. Continue Reading →