For its tireless contributions to the region — in support of local businesses, in extensive charitable giving, and in financial contributions that have played a major role in Bangor — the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce has named Penn National Gaming’s Hollywood Casino the recipient of its Business of the Year Award.
“We’re very honored to receive the award,” said General Manager John Osborne. “We’re flattered. It’s something that we hold in very high regard.”
PNG first came to town in 2005 as Hollywood Slots, briefly operating in a temporary location before building a $130 million facility across from the Bangor Auditorium. A percentage of gaming revenue has gone to the state and to the city of Bangor every year, and that money was used to finance the construction of the new Cross Insurance Center — and will be pay the city’s debt service on the CIC for 30 years.
PNG was not without challenges coming here, as some believed it would bring crime increases and rampant gambling addiction to Bangor. Neither happened.
“We have been very diligent in making sure that we did the right things within the community to represent the business,” he said. “We take extraordinary steps to make sure that people understand that gaming is a mainstream entertainment form — that we ensure that we operate our business not only responsibly, but even to an extent that is higher than most other businesses in the area.”
The casino hands over half of its $60 million annual revenue to the state and city, and even works to keep customers away from its facility if gambling does become a problem. You won’t likely find another business mandated to hand over half its revenue and keep its own customers away. Along with creating 400 jobs, that’s just one way Hollywood Casino has worked hard to be a good community supporter.
“Being part of the community, making sure that we behave in a fashion that people grow to understand our industry better over time is paramount to our operations,” said Osborne.
After adding table games and becoming Hollywood Casino, the casino still has 12,000 square feet of unused space. The bulk of it will open in the second quarter as the Celebrity Bar and Grill as a menu-based alternative to the popular Epic Buffet. Additional space will eventually be converted into a doubling of the casino’s existing banquet-room space.
So far, the casino has invested nearly $200 million here, which has paid off for the entire region by spurring waterfront development, helping to revitalize downtown, and building the Cross Center. But secondary development is equally important. For example, Ocean Properties, which owns more than 100 hotels and resorts in North America, including 10 in Maine, is building an 18 million, 124-room hotel next to the Cross Center.
“We’re hopeful that, longer term, the conventions and large groups that could book with the Cross Insurance Center will begin to create opportunities for growth down on this end of town,” he said.
Beyond business, PNG has supported dozens of local charities, such as the Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems Champion the Cure Challenge, which earned Hollywood Casino the 2013 Champion Award for its lead fundraising efforts and support.
Another charity the casino supports is Susan G. Komen For the Cure, for which the casino hosted its Survivor Dinner and provided the space and all the food free of charge. The casino did the same thing for Champion the Cure’s Night of Hope, which was very successful and repeated the next year.
“We staff it as we normally would… we’re covering the cost,” said Marketing Director Michele Collins. “It gives them a place to bring everyone together and be able to thank all of their sponsors and survivors. We’re very honored to be able to underwrite it for them… It’s exciting to be able to help out in that fashion.”
Osborne said everything the casino has done for Bangor and the region has been more than just about doing business.
“It’s flat-out pride,” he said. “To be able to have a building across the street that’s going to benefit the entire region is something that we’re very proud to be a part of. I believe that the Cross Insurance Center is probably just the first step in a master redevelopment for Bangor.”