Supporters and opponents of a proposed Oxford County casino are already gearing up for a campaign they say won’t really take off until late summer.

“Most of our focus during this time of year and into the summer will be on heavy grass roots,” said Peter Martin, spokesman for Black Bear Entertainment, the casino investment group. “After Labor Day, you’ll start to see the media.”

Black Bear’s political action committee had $43,103 in cash at the end of the first quarter of this year, according to documents filed Monday with the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices.

The group raised $30,000 in the quarter and spent $59,371. The PAC listed another $39,721 in unpaid debt to lawyers and consultants.

Most of the group’s expenses were incurred during 2009.

The PAC paid $50,500 to Fairfield-based Atlantic Strategies for the second half of 2009, and $396,344 to a California-based group called National Petition Management Inc., which gathered the roughly 105,000 signatures to put the citizens’ initiative on the ballot.

CasinosNO!, an anti-casino PAC registered with the ethics commission, raised $35,060 in the first quarter from the wife and late brother of Leon A. Gorman, chairman of L.L. Bean.

Nobody else made donations.

“You call people up, and they feel like the issue has been decided,” said Dennis Bailey, president of Savvy Inc., which was paid $14,000 for public relations work for the anti-casino campaign from July through February. “They don’t understand why we have to vote on it and vote on it and vote on it.”

CasinosNO! also paid $20,000 to Harpswell-based Command Research for polling in 2009, and owes that company another $3,500.

Bailey said he did not anticipate much spending in favor of the Oxford County casino, although he did say that Penn National, the Pennsylvania-based owner of Bangor’s Hollywood Slots, has been known to shell out millions to block competing casinos in other states.

MaineToday Media State House Reporter Ethan Wilensky-Lanford can be contacted at 620-7016 or at: [email protected]


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