AUGUSTA, Maine — With members of the Legislature’s Legal and Veterans Affairs Committee considering a range of gambling expansions, Hollywood Slots general manager John Osborne asked lawmakers on Wednesday to authorize table games.
“We certainly don’t see Bangor as a big table game market,” he said. “But we think what it does is complete the experience in people’s minds.”
But, Osborne said, even a small operation — which he defined as 20 tables operating a mix of games from poker to roulette and craps — will generate about $8 million a year. He said that would create about 130 new jobs at Hollywood Slots just to support the table games with additional jobs in the hotel and food services.
“That’s probably another 40 to 50 jobs,” he said.
Osborne, who managed casinos for Penn National Gaming in other states before taking over as manager of Hollywood Slots, told lawmakers that the Bangor facility is at a disadvantage in its competition with casinos in southern New England because those facilities offer table games.
“Customers ask us, ‘Why don’t you have table games?” he said. “The second question they ask us is, ‘How come I spend more money at your place than in the one in Connecticut, but they give us better offers?’
“It is not a level playing field,” he said.
Osborne asked the panel to consider making sure Hollywood Slots is treated fairly with the Oxford County casino initiative specifically limiting table games to the new facility that would be built. But Obsorne’s request is more complicated than it seems.
Chief Deputy Attorney General Linda Pistner cautioned the panel that if the signatures initiating the proposed Oxford County casino are valid, lawmakers might have to allow voters to consider the Hollywood Slots proposal as a competing measure.
She said if the Legislature approved the Hollywood Slots proposal by a two-thirds margin and it was signed into law, it would not have to go on the ballot as a competing measure.
“What about in the budget?” asked Rep. Stacey Fitts, R-Pittsfield. “We have been discussing this in the context of the budget.”
Pistner said the key issue is whether the measure is passed as an emergency with a two-thirds vote, and if the budget is passed with a two-thirds vote, it would not be subject to the competing measure provision of the state constitution.
“That’s the best advice I can give without a specific proposal to analyze,” she said.
The table games would provide revenue for the state of about $1.4 million a year as well as a licensing fee of $5 million.
There could also be additional slots revenue as a result of higher attendance at Hollywood Slots.
Sen. Debra Plowman, R-Hampden, said the committee is looking at several options to raise revenue through gambling. She said Republicans on the panel have not caucused on the proposals, but she expects there will be several gambling expansions proposed as part of the budget.
“I don’t think we are there yet on what we will support in the budget,” she said.
Rep. Pamela Trinward, D-Waterville, is co-chairwoman of the committee. She said the panel is discussing all sorts of variations of gambling expansions to help fund the budget shortfall.
“We are trying to find ways to help with the budget,” she said. “We have some ideas that I think will help.”
The panel is sending a menu of gambling expansion ideas to the Appropriations Committee.
Earlier this week, the committee recommended that the state lottery join the Mega Millions game. Several members also want the state lottery to establish keno games with the possibility that part of the revenue will be shared with nonprofit organizations that host the new game.
Keno is marketed in other states to social gathering areas, such as restaurants and bars and veterans halls, where video displays would allow patrons to check to see if they have winning tickets.
Thirteen states now have keno games as part of their state lottery operations. Lottery director Dan Gwadosky estimates a Maine keno game would have sales of $8.4 million in the first year, yielding about $2.4 million for the state.
By the third year of operation, sales and revenues are expected to more than double.
The committee meets again Friday morning before making recommendations to the Appropriations Committee on Friday afternoon.
If all their options are adopted, it could mean as much as $8 million a year in additional revenue for the state.