Tribe opposes Oxford casino

Posted May 05, 2010, at 9:54 p.m.

INDIAN TOWNSHIP, Maine — Stating that the November 2010 citizen initiative to locate a casino in Oxford County is “too restrictive, one-sided and allows for monopolization of future gaming,” the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Indian Township has spoken out in opposition of the Oxford proposal.

Gov. William Nicholas said the tribe will join with Bangor City Council and Penn National Gaming, the parent company of Hollywood Slots Hotel and Raceway in Bangor in opposition to the initiative, even as it begins working to site a racino in Washington County.

He said the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Indian Township fully supports the expansion of table games at Hollywood Slots.

Gov. Richard Doyle of the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point did not return calls for information, but Nicholas said the Pleasant Point reservation has not voted on the issue.

“I can’t imagine they would take a favorable stand,” he said.

Nicholas said the initiative as written prohibits any other entity from building a casino that would compete with the Oxford site.

“If the initiative is passed, it is in effect a moratorium,” he said.

Nicholas further charged that Black Bear Entertainment, the group attempting to site the Oxford casino, ignored the Passamaquoddy Tribe and its wishes.

“Black Bear Entertainment added us in their bill, offering to give the tribe money — a 4 percent contribution. No one ever conferred with us,” he said, calling the offer insulting and one the tribe never requested.

Nicholas cited the Passamaquoddy Tribe’s two decades of work with the Maine Legislature and citizen-initiated referendum process to attempt to allow gaming in Maine, specifically in Washington County.

“Only when Black Bear Entertainment realized the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Indian Township was going to submit competing measure language did Black Bear Entertainment decide to work in a collaborative style,” Nicholas said.

Peter Martin, Black Bear Entertainment’s representative, recently toured Washington County in an attempt to garner local support for the Oxford casino and disputed Nicholas’ comments.

“Black Bear Entertainment, during the recent Legislative session, worked very hard to respond to legislators’ requests to consider a competing measure. We worked collaboratively with all those stakeholders concerned,” Martin stated in an e-mail response to a Bangor Daily News inquiry. “We respectfully disagree with many of the points the Chief made, but he has the right to his opinion. We would never seek to prevent nor does our referendum prohibit any other parties from seeking their own gaming rights in the future, either through a bill or the referendum process, and on that particular point we firmly disagree with the Chief or others that may share that same opinion.”

If the citizen initiative passes into law as written, the Passamaquoddy Tribe would have to alter the clause on competing gambling sites through either new legislation or a state referendum in order to site a casino or racino in Washington County. Martin stressed there is nothing in the initiative preventing the tribe from introducing new legislation or pursuing a state referendum to make that change.

Martin said every county and municipality in Maine will benefit from the passage of the Oxford resort casino, as it would funnel educational funding into state coffers.

“It is clear to the Passamaquoddy Tribe that gaming does not provide the magic cure-all for regional prosperity, but it is comprehensible that a fair and balanced campaign approach needs to exist,” Nicholas wrote in his announcement.

He said the tribe will be working with the harness racing industry, Penn National Gaming and Scarborough Downs to ensure that any future expansion of gaming in Maine includes the tribes and harness racing.

Nicholas cited a Maine Farm Bureau study that assessed horses in Maine as a $364 million industry that preserves nearly 250,000 acres of open space and supports other Maine agricultural businesses.

“Say what you want about expanded gaming, but this is the type of economic activity that would benefit Washington County,” Nicholas said.

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