Gambling board lifts gaming expansion hiatus

Posted Aug. 20, 2008, at 11:11 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 7:18 a.m.

AUGUSTA — Noting that everyone was ignoring it anyway, the Maine Gambling Control Board has opted not to extend its request for an intermission before any more casino-style gambling venues are authorized.

Adopted in August 2006, the board’s request was issued in the form of a nonbinding resolve. The resolve called for a voluntary moratorium on any expansion of gaming in Maine until the board had amassed enough data “to assure an accurate assessment of the effect of gaming, both tangible and intangible, on the people, the social fabric, and the business infrastructure of Maine.”

Despite the board’s request for a timeout, however, the state has seen several gambling proposals arise, one of which — a proposed Oxford County casino — remains viable and will be on the November election ballot, Chairman George McHale noted during a board meeting Wednesday in Augusta that was broadcast live over the Internet.

In addition, the proposed gambling impact study never took place because it never was funded, member Cushing Samp pointed out.

When board member Peter Danton, who also heads the state’s liquor and lottery commission, made the motion to let the moratorium request “die on the vine,” the rest of the board agreed.

“We took a stand and, frankly, I think we can move forward,” McHale said.

In other meeting business, board members received a briefing from their auditor Scott Woods.

According to Woods, Hollywood Slots at Bangor posted a record day on July 1, when it opened the doors of its new $132 plus million gaming and entertainment facility.

On that day alone, the Bangor facility saw a total gross handle, or coin-in, of $5.6 million, or roughly double its best day at its interim facility at the former Miller’s Restaurant building a few blocks up Main Street, Woods said in a telephone interview after the board meeting.

The gross handle, however, is an artificially inflated figure because it reflects winnings put back into slot machines for continued play, he noted.

Woods said the month of July also was record setting, with a total handle of nearly $75.6 million. The total coin-in for June in the old facility was almost $44.6 million.

During the month of July, the first full month of operations at Hollywood Slots’ new complex, the company also saw four days on which the gross handle exceeded $3 million, and 16 days with handles of more than $2 million, Woods said.

Woods attributed the big jump in large part to the fact that the facility is still new. He expected finances to stabilize in coming months, though he said it is too early to determine if the new facility will result in a change in gaming trends.

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