April 26, 2018
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Hollywood Slots, others target casino plan in Oxford County

By Eric Russell, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — A political action committee of business groups that includes Hollywood Slots Hotel & Raceway in Bangor officially formed on Monday to oppose a proposal to build a gambling casino in Oxford County.

Dan Cashman, a spokesman for Citizens Against the Oxford Casino, said its members all have different reasons for opposing the casino, but they agree that it’s a bad deal for Maine.

“We’re not opposed to expanding gaming in Maine, but any expansion should be done in the best interests of Mainers. There is a right way to do it, but this is not it,” said Cashman, who previously worked on Gov. John Baldacci’s communications staff.

Question 1 on the statewide November ballot asks: “Do you want to allow a casino with table games and slot machines at a single site in Oxford County, subject to local approval, with part of the profits going to specific state, local and tribal programs?”

Cashman said the proponents are making a lot of promises about the economic benefits that would go along with a large-scale resort casino, but he said the cons far outweigh the pros.

Peter Martin, a spokesman for Black Bear Entertainment, the group behind the casino effort, did not return a call Monday for comment. Black Bear is a group of Maine investors, led by Steve Barber of Barber Foods in Portland, seeking to build an expansive resort that includes a casino, hotel, convention center and outdoor recreational opportunities.

In the past, Black Bear officials have said that net proceeds would go to specific uses such as the Maine Dairy Farm Stabilization Fund, the Maine Agriculture Fair Support Fund and the Maine Harness Racing Purse Fund.

The rest of the proceeds would go to fund education, local government and Maine’s Penobscot and Passamaquoddy tribes. In all, 46 cents of every dollar of net proceeds earned would fund state programs.

By comparison, Hollywood Slots, Maine’s first and only gambling facility, pays 39 percent of net proceeds to the state, which is spread out to a number of different agencies. In 2008, more than $17 million was paid out.

Earlier this year, the Bangor City Council unanimously opposed the Oxford County casino initiative, largely because it would create a different set of rules from those imposed on Hollywood Slots. Specifically, the council was concerned that the proposal’s language would allow table games such as poker and blackjack in Oxford County but prohibit them anywhere else.

John Osborne, general manager of Hollywood Slots, has made it no secret that he would like to add table games in Bangor, but he has been unsuccessful so far.

Martin has said in the past, however, that there is no evidence that the Oxford County casino would be detrimental to Hollywood Slots.

In addition to Hollywood Slots, members of the Citizens Against the Oxford Casino include the Maine Association of Agricultural Fairs, the Maine Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association, the Maine Harness Horsemen’s Association, the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Indian Township, and the Greater Bangor Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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