EDITORIALS

No on Question 3

Posted Oct. 23, 2011, at 5:01 p.m.

Do you want to allow a casino with table games and slot machines in Lewiston, with part of the profits going to support specific state and local programs?

The Lewiston casino proposal, a unique concept developed by city officials to revive the downtown, is in the wrong place and comes at the wrong time. It should be defeated.

The project is marred by its location on the state map. If it wins approval, and the Biddeford and Washington County casinos are passed by voters, the state will have gone from one licensed casino (in Bangor) to five in just one year (the Oxford casino, approved last November, is now under construction).

The Lewiston project, though it is an innovative initiative that would save a historic mill building and probably bring traffic to downtown restaurants and stores, would hamper the prospects for financial success of the voter-approved Oxford facility less than 15 miles to its west. It also probably would hurt a Biddeford casino, less than 50 miles away as the crow flies.

Lewiston officials should be commended for their hard work and commitment to improve their downtown. Especially noteworthy is their effort to save a large, attractive structure — the 350,000-square-foot Bates Mill No. 5. Officials have considered other development alternatives for the structure and come up empty handed.

Casino gambling, though it is like feasting on so-called empty calories, is popular and so is a reliable winner for the house. Directing the revenue from willing gamblers to worthy government and other public funds — helping veterans and historic building renovation among them — is laudable.

But the Lewiston casino plan’s boosters lose some credibility when they cite the 2006 Brookings Institution report, “Charting Maine’s Future,” as being consistent with their vision. That plan argues that Maine’s best bets — pardon the pun — are to develop its quality of life and its creative economy, help young entrepreneurs thrive, polish its downtowns and highlight outdoor recreational opportunities.

People sitting in front of electronic slot machines is not the quality of place the report envisioned.

Lewiston officials would do better to build ties to the economic hub that is Greater Portland and persuade developers to save some, if not all of the Bates Mill through incentives.

A Lewiston casino is one too many. Question 3 should be defeated.

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