Do you favor the addition of table games at a commercial track located in this county that was licensed to operate slot machines on January 1, 2011?
Penobscot County voters will be asked Nov. 8 to vote to allow Hollywood Slots, the state’s first — and at the moment, only — gambling facility to expand its offerings to include so-called table games. Approving this change is low risk, sensible and fair. A yes vote on the question that will appear on the back of the statewide ballot also will help secure long-range funding for the Maine Center, the new Bangor conference and performance facility.
A yes vote is responsible and, in the best sense, a self-interested vote for Penobscot County residents.
Hollywood Slots, the Penn National-owned casino sought the ballot measure in part because the voter-approved Oxford casino will have table games. In fact, the legislation that accompanied last November’s referendum on the Oxford casino does not limit the number of table games that facility can operate.
Table games are those gambling activities in which a patron interacts with a dealer or game operator, as opposed to the electronic, preprogrammed video slot machines. Casino gamblers like the table games because there is more of an element of luck and because they can employ certain strategies to improve their odds.
Because they have choices — whether or not to take another card in blackjack, which number to bet in roulette — patrons find such games more fun. Even for patrons not playing the games, their presence on the casino floor provides entertainment.
If the measure passes, Hollywood Slots plans to add 14 table games: blackjack, poker, dice and a roulette game. Revenue from the games will make up about 10 percent of revenues.
Hollywood Slots claims the new revenue will create 89 jobs drawing $4 million in salaries and benefits. The company will send an additional $1 million to state coffers and along with a $1.4 million state fee for a 20-year license for the games.
Casino officials point out that 98 percent of its employees live in Penobscot County, so it makes sense for voters who live in towns other than Bangor to support allowing the company to add the new games because their neighbors may be among those getting the new jobs.
Gambling always will carry a troubling truth, that many of a casino’s patrons are spending — losing — money they should have saved for other, more important expenditures, such as paying down debt, improving their homes and saving for their children’s education. But the counter argument remains that other businesses we allow to open also rely on people spending money they may not be able to afford.
Hollywood Slots provides young adults an opportunity to work in Bangor, and to climb the corporate ladder there or at Penn National’s other casinos around the country. The company is opening three more casinos next year (two in Ohio, one in Kansas). While we want our young adults to stay in Maine, Penn National — like other national corporations with offices in Maine — does bring opportunity, and that shouldn’t be denigrated, especially in a poor economy.
A yes vote to allow table games will help an existing, successful Bangor business continue to thrive.