AUGUSTA, Maine — A Bangor lawmaker introduced a bill Wednesday that would allow any state slot machine facility in operation as of Jan. 1, 2011, to add table games.
Rep. Doug Damon, R-Bangor, is the sponsor of LD 1418, An Act to Allow Table Games at a Facility Licensed to Operate Slot Machines. Although it is not mentioned by name in his bill, Hollywood Slots in Bangor is the only slot machine facility in operation as of the beginning of this year.
The legislation was officially introduced on the floor of the Maine House on Wednesday and referred to the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, which is expected to hold hearings and then vote whether to send it to the full Legislature. Damon sits on that committee, along with Sen. Nichi Farnham of Bangor and Sen. Debra Plowman of nearby Hampden.
“This bill aims to make Bangor more of a destination than it has ever been,” Damon said late Wednesday afternoon.
In addition to addressing table games for Hollywood Slots, Damon’s bill seeks to boost the tax rate from 39 percent of net slot machine income to 46 percent. The additional 7 percent would go directly to the state’s General Fund for administrative expenses of the Gambling Control Board. The tax rate for table games also would be 46 percent under LD 1418, but that revenue would be distributed in a different fashion.
“It puts Bangor on the same page as Oxford County,” Damon said of the tax structure. “But It’s important to note that [Bangor’s] share of proceeds would not change.”
The city of Bangor plans to use Hollywood Slots proceeds to pay for construction of a $65 million arena and civic center complex that awaits a citywide referendum vote on May 4.
When Maine voters last November approved a full-fledged casino in Oxford County, Hollywood Slots manager John Osborne indicated his primary goal would be to add table games in Bangor. The Bangor slots parlor opened in Bangor in 2005 as the result of a 2003 statewide referendum.
Osborne said Tuesday that he could not comment on LD 1418 but said Hollywood Slots has retained a lobbyist to represent the facility during legislative hearings.
Peter Martin, spokesman for Black Bear Entertainment, the group of investors behind the Oxford County casino, said his group is generally not opposed to Hollywood Slots adding table games but also said LD 1418’s details would be crucial.
The Oxford County project is awaiting its final permit and could break ground this summer, several months ahead of schedule, Martin said.
Damon said he couldn’t predict whether there would be opposition to his bill, but anti-casino groups such as CasinosNo! historically have opposed the expansion of gambling in Maine.
“When voters approved [Hollywood Slots] five years ago, there [were] so many unknowns,” he said. “But Hollywood Slots has proven to be a neat, clean operation. I think many of the fears that were put forth have not materialized and [table games] is a logical step forward that allows a more complete experience.”