Developers announce site for new Maine casino

Posted Nov. 12, 2010, at 6:07 a.m.

OXFORD, Maine — The group planning to build a casino in western Maine has selected a 100-acre site known as Pigeon Hill for the $165 million project, officials said Friday.

The first phase of the five-year project involves a 65,000-square-foot building with slot machines, gaming tables and a restaurant on the Route 26 site, Black Bear Entertainment said. That will be followed by a 100-room, four-story hotel, then another 100 rooms and a spa.

Maine voters last week gave their approval to the state’s first casino with table games. The measure passed by less than 1 percentage point, and opponents are seeking a recount.

Jim Boldebook, a Black Bear partner, said the recount may slow down construction. But he said the company could break ground on the first phase as early as this spring.

Details were released Friday at a news conference at Oxford Town Hall.

Providing a view of New Hampshire’s Mount Washington, the Pigeon Hill site is 13 miles from Lewiston, 23 miles from Mount Abram, 30 miles from Bethel and 35 miles from Portland.

Black Bear partners insisted the project is all about putting people to work, not making a killing with the casino. Black Bear’s owners have said the casino will create an estimated 2,700 jobs.

“I’m not just in it for the money. I’m in it for the jobs,” said Bob Bahre, one of the partners and a former owner of both Oxford Plains Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Rob Lally, another of the Black Bear partners, said the group should have no problem lining up financing, but Casinos No! questioned the group’s assumptions. Casinos No! said Black Bear still needs a casino partner to run the facility, and those partners are interested only if there’s a monopoly.

Separate casino proposals in Biddeford and Lewiston “and an expected legal challenge to the Oxford casino legislation make that prospect highly doubtful,” said spokesman Dennis Bailey.

Maine now has one casino, Hollywood Slots in Bangor, which has 1,000 slot machines but is prohibited by law from having table games such as blackjack and craps.

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