November 3, 2010

Proposal for Oxford County casino splits Maine voters

Developers say the $165 million facility would create 1,700 jobs and generate $60 million in state revenue.

By Tom Bell tbell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Steve Barber, president of Black Bear Entertainment, welcomes guests during the Yes on 1 Four Season Resort and Casino reception at DiMillos Floating Restaurant in Portland this evening.

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

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This is a conceptual rendering of the proposed casino to be built in Oxford, Maine, if approved by voters in the November election.

AP

Additional Photos Below

The group, in a nutshell, questions the true economic impact that a casino would have on the area’s economy.

“This resilient, diversified economy so many people have worked to build, I feel that could be destroyed,” said Scott Vlaun, a photographer and editor.

In the warmly lit studio, two computers were set to websites with election returns, as campaign workers and supporters sipped wine and mingled.

“We fought as hard as we could. We’re about positive solutions,” said Scott Vlaun. “We saw this as a threat. We rallied.”

Zizi Vlaun said she was discouraged by the amount of money the Yes on 1 side was able to sink into the campaign. Her group spent between $8,000 and $10,000.

“What we have is passion, and you can’t buy that,” Zizi Vlaun said.

However, there was strong support in Oxford County for the casino. Two modular-home manufacturers in the county have closed, and the county’s unemployment rate – more than 10 percent for most of the year – is among the highest in Maine.

Donna Catalano, 36, of Norway, a state employee with three children, said she voted “yes” on Question 1.

“I did vote for the casino because so many people are out of work, especially out here,” she said. “I’ve got a brother out of work.”

Elizabeth Madison, 30, of Norway, a Hannaford employee, said Question 1 was the most important item on the ballot.

“The area needs jobs in general,” she said. “So many places have closed down, and while unemployment is everywhere, it seems like we’ve gotten it real bad.”

Linda McSherry of Norway, a nurse, voted “no.”

“I’m not opposed to gambling, but I have concerns if it will really benefit the economy,” she said.

More than 100,000 people signed the petition to put the question on the ballot.

In 2009, Maine voters rejected a proposal for a casino in Oxford County. In 2008, Maine voters rejected a plan by the Passamaquoddy Tribe to build a casino in Calais. In 2003, voters defeated a proposal by the Passamaquoddy Tribe and the Penobscot Nation for a $650 million casino in Sanford.

Voters that year, however, approved a racino in Bangor. Hollywood Slots, which opened in 2005, remains the only gambling facility approved by Maine voters. Hollywood Slots is licensed only for slot machines.

Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at: tbell@pressherald.com

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Chase Martin, Republican candidate for House District 115 in Portland, left, visits with Mark Ferguson of Poland Springs, during the Yes on 1 Four Season Resort and Casino reception at DiMillos Floating Restaurant in Portland.

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

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Rob Lally, middle, treasurer of Black Bear Entertainment, visits with Zac Creps of Oxford, left, and Mark Ferguson of Poland Springs, during the Yes on 1 Four Season Resort and Casino reception at DiMillos Floating Restaurant.

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

 


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