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Hollywood Casino general manager retiring; Penn National promotes replacement from West Va.

John Clarke Russ | BDN
John Clarke Russ | BDN
Hollywood Slots general manager John Osborne in this Nov. 8, 2011 file photo.
By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — John Osborne, general manager of Hollywood Casino, is retiring after five years in Bangor and more than 30 years in the gambling industry.

Osborne, 56, said Friday that he plans to leave for Florida with his wife, Janet, the day after his retirement becomes official on Feb. 21.

The couple will still own their house in Bangor and plan to spend the warmer months of the year in Maine. Osborne said he and his family have made good friends here and love the city they’ve seen building up over the past five years.

The couple have a daughter who is studying psychology at the University of Maine in Orono.

“I want to thank the people of Bangor for opening their homes and hearts to my family here in Bangor,” said Osborne, who got his start in the gambling industry in Atlantic City in 1982.

Penn National Gaming Chief Operating Officer Jay Snowden announced Osborne’s retirement — to those who didn’t know — during a breakfast with legislators and city officials Friday morning at the casino.

Planning for the retirement had been in the works for six months as the company worked to find a suitable replacement, Snowden said. But Osborne said he and his wife had been planning it for several years, and that Hollywood Casino had been working to ensure the right people were in the right positions to make the transition to new leadership work.

Penn National will bring up Jose Flores, currently assistant general manager of Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in Charles Town, W. Va., to fill Osborne’s role.

In a news release announcing Flores’ pending appointment, Penn National says he is a 20-year veteran of the gaming industry who began his career at what was then Empress Casino in Joliet, Ill., in 1994. When Penn National acquired Argosy Gaming Co. in October 2005, Flores began working for Penn National at the renamed Hollywood Casino Joliet, working his way to a position as vice president of facility operations in 2009.

He has been working at Charles Town, a facility with more than 3,200 slot machines, table games and a pair of restaurants, since August 2011.

Flores’ appointment will be effective in March, according to the company.

“We believe that Jose’s strong track record of success in roles of increasing importance and responsibility at both our Joliet and Charles Town properties over the course of a 20-year career make it clear that he is the ideal person to take the reins from John Osborne,” John Finamore, senior vice president of regional operations for Penn National, said in a news release.

Flores will step into a dynamic industry in Maine that’s still trying to sort itself out. Casino gaming is still relatively new to the state, and other groups, including Scarborough Downs and Maine tribes, want slot machines of their own. However, officials with Penn National and Oxford have been strongly against the proposal, arguing that further casino-style gaming opportunities in Maine could “cannibalize” the industry.

After Oxford Casino opened, Hollywood Slots saw a dramatic dip in revenue it had drawn from Augusta south. Oxford officials are concerned about plans in Massachusetts and New Hampshire to build large casinos that might draw Mainers further south and keep New England gamblers from traveling up Interstate 95.

Hollywood Casino netted $54.7 million in gambling revenue in 2013, a big drop from the previous year’s take of about $63 million, the best annual take the casino has seen. But 2013 was Oxford Casino’s first full year, and it took in $71.6 million. That success likely contributed to the smaller revenue at Hollywood.

Hollywood has looked to Canadian tourists to make up for the lost patrons from southern Maine and New England who are heading to Oxford. Canadians now account for about 10 percent of the casino’s revenue whereas a few years ago it was closer to 2 or 3 percent, according to Osborne.

Osborne said he’s confident that Hollywood Casino will succeed in spite of its competition to the south. With the Cross Insurance Center across the street, a new hotel in the works, and a growing Waterfront Concerts Series, Osborne said he expects the casino to draw big numbers, especially in the summer months.

Penn National operates 26 facilities ranging from Florida to Maine to New Mexico. Together, those operations include more than 31,000 gaming machines, 800 table games and 2,900 hotel rooms. Bangor’s facility contributes a harness racing track, nearly 900 slot machines, 16 table games and 152 hotel rooms to that total.

Finamore credited Osborne with building the “Hollywood brand” at Hollywood Casino Tunica in Mississippi and, since arriving in Maine in September of 2009, has “built a strong operation in Bangor.”

“We thank John for his tireless efforts and wish him the best as he moves on to this well-deserved next chapter of his life,” Finamore said.

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