AUGUSTA, Maine — Aiming to avoid a veto from Gov. Paul LePage, supporters of an effort to allow table games such as blackjack and poker at Bangor’s Hollywood Slots on Tuesday agreed to give voters in Penobscot County — not just the city of Bangor — the final word on the matter.
The House gave its initial approval to the amended LD 1418 on Tuesday. The bill faces additional votes in the House and Senate. Those votes are expected Wednesday.
The amendment requiring a countywide vote apparently was requested by LePage, who threatened last week to veto LD 1418. Adrienne Bennett, the governor’s spokeswoman, said Tuesday that LePage would sign the bill as long as voters throughout the county were allowed to have their say.
The original bill, which won initial approval in both houses, required only Bangor voters to approve the addition of table games at Maine’s only operating slots facility.
Rep. Doug Damon, R-Bangor, the bill’s sponsor, said he was glad to introduce the amendment because he didn’t think it would alter the outcome of the referendum.
“About 90,000 people are in Bangor during the day but only 33,000 live there,” he said Tuesday after the House vote. “Why not let all those people who work and shop in Bangor have a say, too?”
Although Gov. LePage had supported adding table games at Hollywood Slots, he told a pair of Bangor radio talk show hosts last week that he would veto the bill once it reached his desk. Bennett explained that the governor simply wanted to ensure a local vote and, for him, that meant a countywide vote.
LD 1418 has taken a back seat this legislative session to a pair of bills that would create gambling facilities in Calais, Biddeford and Lewiston. LePage has said he would veto those bills if they reached his desk and send them to a statewide referendum in November.
That became a moot point Tuesday when the Senate killed the Biddeford-Calais bill, thus sending it to a statewide vote. The Lewiston bill suffered the same fate earlier this month, and also will head to referendum.
Damon said Tuesday that a vote in Penobscot County to allow or reject table games at Hollywood Slots also would be scheduled for November.
Hollywood Slots was first approved as a racino by voters during a statewide referendum in 2003. The facility is licensed to operate 1,500 slot machines at its Main Street facility in Bangor but its officials have hoped that last year’s voter approval of a full casino in Oxford County will help their fight to bring table games to Bangor.
Under the fiscal note that accompanies Damon’s bill, Hollywood Slots will pay an initial $100,000 fee to operate each table game for 20 years. With 12 to 14 tables planned for the facility, that would mean up to $1.4 million headed to the state’s general fund. The company also would pay a $1,000 annual fee to renew the license for each table game.
Once the tables are in operation, 16 percent of the net income from table games will be distributed among the following: 9 percent to the general fund, 3 percent to a dedicated administrative expenses account for the Gambling Control Board, 2 percent to the city of Bangor, the host municipality, and 2 percent to a fund to benefit charitable nonprofit organizations whose gaming revenue has been negatively affected by slot machine and table game operation.