June 22, 2018
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Casino proposal gets mixed reviews Down East

By Diana Graettinger

CALAIS, Maine — A Las Vegas developer’s desire to build a casino in Oxford County has some people here betting it will pass while others are hoping the gambling company from “away” will roll snake eyes.

Some of the hard feelings here are due to the defeat of an effort last year to build a tribal racetrack casino on a 700-acre site in Calais.

The Passamaquoddy Tribe’s was narrowly defeated 6,193 to 5,949 statewide. The town of Oxford voted 323-306 against the tribe.

In Calais, North Street businessman Rod Tirrell is opposed to Question 2.

“I am still sour that it didn’t happen here. We don’t get the support from some of the southern Maine people and when it comes time when they want one they expect us to support them. They probably don’t need our vote to carry it, but we still have a vote,” he said.

Marilyn Berardini, who operates a business on Main Street, said she is going to check “no.”

“I don’t think they should have one. If we weren’t allowed to have a casino here I don’t see why they should have one in Oxford County, and I would vote against it,” she said.

Several business owners who asked not to be identified also said they would oppose Question 2.

“Hell, if we can’t have it here, they can’t have it there,” one man said.

Pat LaMarche, Maine spokeswoman for Olympia Gaming, said it was too bad that some people in Calais were opposed to the Oxford casino.

“I completely understand that they feel that way. But I think it is a real marvel of the opposition to get the poorest people, who need each other the most, to fight each other instead of fighting the real bad thing which is the people from away,” she said, referring to people from outside Maine who donated money to the anti-gambling group CasinosNO!

“I feel awfully bad if Washington County feels that way because we will do everything in our power to help Washington County succeed,” she said. “I know I will.”

Not all in Calais are opposed.

“The trouble with the state as a whole is there is always one legion fighting against the other,” Calais lawyer John Mitchell said. “If everybody keeps voting against everything we will never get anything. Any business hoping to invest in gaming should be allowed to do so,” he said.

Businesswoman Linsey Hightower said that even though Oxford County had voted against the Washington County effort, she did not feel it was fair to vote against them.

“I think if it is going to help them, it should do that,” she said. “But I had wished they hadn’t voted us down … and Washington County has a hard time as it is. We need a calling card. We need something here.”

The Passamaquoddy governors and councilors are awaiting the outcome of the Nov. 4 vote.

Donald Soctomah, who is the state tribal representative for Indian Township and Pleasant Point, said Tuesday the tribe had not yet taken a stand on the Oxford casino question, but said he personally was recommending people vote against it.

“We had the same proposal for that same area and we were run out of the county there,” Soctomah said.

Dennis Bailey of CasinosNO!, which also opposed the Passamaquoddy plan in 2007, said if voters approve the Oxford casino this year, the tribe had a right to be upset.

“They’ve tried this for 20 years and then we turn around and give this to some stranger from Vegas?” he said. “They have every right in the world to be miffed.”

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