Correction appended

AUGUSTA — Even before the casino planned in Oxford opens its doors, state taxpayers will have to ante up about $1.5 million to set up an oversight system, Maine’s Gambling Control Board was told on Wednesday.

“It’s a necessary expense in order for the income to come in,” said Public Safety Commissioner Anne Jordan.

On Nov. 2, Maine voters narrowly approved the casino, the first in Maine with table games. Opponents have demanded a recount, a process that will begin Dec. 2 and could take more than 30 days.

But already, the Gambling Control Board, which the Legislature established to oversee the Hollywood Slots racino in Bangor, is preparing to regulate the new casino, which would be built on farmland off Route 26 in Oxford. Board members said Wednesday that they must establish regulations for table games such as blackjack and poker, and review regulations developed by other states with legal casino gambling.

Hollywood Slots is allowed to have only slot machines — a limitation the Legislature is expected to re-examine in the coming session.

The Gambling Control Board will have to add 11 employees by the time the Oxford casino opens in 2012 — including eight inspectors and a police detective, according to a preliminary budget prepared by Robert Welch, the board’s executive director.

He said the board will have to ramp up its spending, starting with $300,000 in fiscal 2011 and $1.5 million in 2012.

When the casino opens, Welch said, the agency’s cost to regulate it and Hollywood Slots is expected to be around $2.7 million annually.

The money would come from the General Fund and compete with other state-funded programs at a time when the state is facing a budget shortfall of perhaps $1 billion.

The measure approved by voters allocates 3 percent of the casino’s net revenue to the general fund for such administrative costs — about $2.1 million a year, according to state estimates. If that estimate is correct, it will leave a $600,000 gap between how much the state expects to spend to regulate the casino and how much it anticipates receiving for administrative costs.

The casino would be required to give the state 46 percent of its net revenue from slot machines and 16 percent of its net revenue from table games, for distribution among various state and local programs. The state’s share would amount to $28 million a year, according to an estimate by the Office of Fiscal and Program Review, but it wouldn’t go into the general fund.

Black Bear Entertainment, the company that plans to build the casino, drafted the referendum language.

Several of the company’s investors attended the Gambling Control Board meeting Wednesday, including Jim Boldenbook, founder of Creative Broadcast Concepts in Biddeford.

Boldenbook said the investors are looking for a professional gaming company to operate the casino and be a potential investor. Construction of the casino resort in Oxford could begin in late spring of next year,

He said the company has received nearly 4,000 applications for jobs and vendor inquiries. He noted that the casino is popular in its host town of Oxford, where 67 percent of voters supported the casino. “We are thrilled to be in Oxford because Oxford is thrilled,” he said.

Correction: This story was revised on Thursday, Nov. 18, to correct the budget figure for the Gambling Control Board. The agency’s total budget after the Oxford casino opens would be $2.7 million, which would include – not exclude – its current oversight of Hollywood Slots in Bangor. It was a reporting error.

MaineToday Media State House Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 699-6962 or at:

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