Bangor against proposed casino

Posted April 26, 2010, at 11:37 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Despite a backer’s effort to change their minds, all nine city councilors voted unanimously Monday night to formally oppose a casino proposed for Oxford County.

Black Bear Entertainment LLC, the company working to develop the southern Maine casino, has gathered enough petition signatures to win a spot on the November statewide election ballot.

Though city councilors did not debate the resolve during Monday night’s meeting, Bangor officials earlier noted that the Oxford County legislation, as it now stands, would create a different set of rules from what Hollywood Slots must abide by.

For starters, they said, the Oxford County facility would pay 3 percent less in taxes. Also, the proposal’s language would allow table games such as poker and blackjack in Oxford County but prohibit them anywhere else.

That, Hollywood Slots Hotel and Raceway general manager John Osborne told the councilors Monday night, in effect translated to, “Once we storm the castle, let’s pull the drawbridge up behind us.” Hollywood Slots has been lobbying state lawmakers for permission to offer table games for years now but has yet to win that round.

In their resolve against the casino, Bangor officials stated that the proposed rules for the Oxford County complex are not consistent with current Maine gaming legislation and the proposed tax structure for the facility would be detrimental to the state, the city and Hollywood Slots Hotel and Raceway.

Black Bear Entertainment spokesman Peter Martin, however, disagreed. He said the city’s opposition was based on false information. He said Black Bear’s analysis showed that the two facilities would pay “essentially the same” taxes as Hollywood Slots.

Martin further said that in exchange for Hollywood Slots’ support the company offered to delay offering table games for three years or until Hollywood Slots was authorized to provide them, whichever comes first.

The offer, Martin said, was rebuffed.

“There is no evidence that the [Oxford County casino] will be detrimental to Hollywood Slots,” he said. He said that officials from Hollywood Slots and the state office of fiscal review both have concluded that the Oxford resort would have no significant impact on Hollywood Slots’ revenues.

After the council’s unanimous vote to oppose the Oxford County proposal, Martin said he was “disappointed. We hope that this community will understand that there are other communities” that need the investment and jobs that a casino might generate.

He also noted that unlike the taxes Hollywood Slots pays the state, which support a variety of agricultural, health and other programs, the revenues the state would receive from the Oxford County complex would be directed toward kindergarten through grade 12 public education in Maine.

That, he said, would benefit counties and municipalities throughout the state, including Bangor.

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