OXFORD – The developer of Maine’s first resort casino is plowing ahead with construction, undeterred by the prospect of competing gambling proposals that could be approved by voters in November.

A spokesman for Black Bear Entertainment LLC, the company that earned voter approval last fall to build a casino in Oxford, said its investors are focused on their project, not upcoming votes on other casino proposals around the state.

“We’re determined,” said Scott Smith, community development director. “We’re laser focused on our project. We’re going to focus on developing a high-quality casino quickly.”

Last fall, voters approved Black Bear’s project by a razor-thin margin — 50.4 percent to 49.5 percent. It was the first time a full casino had been approved in Maine after several defeats.

Before last year, the only legal gambling approved by voters came in 2003 when a racino — a racetrack with slot machines — was approved for Bangor.

This fall, voters will again consider expanding gambling in Maine.

Question 2 on the Nov. 8 ballot asks voters to approve racinos in southern Maine and Washington County, most likely in Biddeford and Calais. Question 3 would allow a new casino in a vacant mill in downtown Lewiston.

Penobscot County voters will be asked whether Hollywood Slots in Bangor can add table games — such as craps, blackjack and poker — to its slots.

The possibility of more expansion has opponents concerned about potential impacts — environmental, financial and societal.

Carroll Conley, executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine, said promises of good jobs with no negative side effects won’t come true. The league has consistently opposed Maine’s gambling referendums.

“I would love for my sons to come back to Maine,” he said. “I would love to have jobs for them, but they are not coming back to Maine for these jobs.”

Conley said he’s asked lawmakers to have an independent cost-benefit analysis conducted on gambling, but no action has been taken.

“There’s people who can handle (gambling),” he said. “But there’s people (casinos) prey off, the most vulnerable in our society. There’s no debate there will be casualties. What’s the acceptable level of attrition?”

Groups including the Androscoggin River Alliance and some Oxford residents have questioned whether the project can handle sewer and water needs without polluting nearby lakes and streams.

In August, this coalition filed a legal challenge of the project’s environmental permits in Kennebec County Superior Court.

But during a tour of the Oxford site last week, Smith said the company has overcome environmental challenges and is on target to open in late spring 2012. As he stood atop a pile of loam near the casino entrance off Route 26, Smith pointed to retention ponds that handle runoff from the site.

“We’re all about uber-compliance,” he said. “We want to get a gold star on our environmental controls.”

Right now, the 27 acres cleared for the casino resemble a large sandbox, with dump trucks and other construction vehicles preparing the site for a 1,100-car parking lot and a 65,000-square-foot casino, restaurants and a bar, Smith said. On Friday, workers began pouring cement.

The lawsuit from the Androscoggin River Alliance alleges the board failed to review the entire project, instead looking only at the first phase, which is the casino. Future phases, including a hotel, are planned.

“The primary concern remains if we’re going to have a new casino in Maine this is absolutely the worst place for it,” said Stephen Hinchman, an attorney representing the alliance.

He argues that the former farm field and forest area in western Maine is too far from major population centers and too close to lakes and streams.

Smith said he’s satisfied that the development can handle water and sewer use at the site. The project will use public water, and developers are “over-engineering” a septic system to handle waste.

He said if a hotel is added, developers will apply for the necessary environmental permits.

Developers are also sensitive to the project’s rural location, and have designed the casino to look like a Maine lodge, he said. While the site has been cleared of trees during construction, it will be landscaped with a long driveway leading to the casino at the back of the lot, away from Route 26.

Developers will also pay for upgrades to Route 26 to allow for a traffic light and extra turning lanes to accommodate increased traffic, he said.

Once open, the casino is expected to employ hundreds of workers, from dealers, to food and beverage servers, to security.

The developers have also been criticized for not announcing a gaming partner to run the casino. The company told The Portland Press Herald in June that an announcement would be made this summer.

Dennis Bailey, spokesman for the anti-casinos advocacy group Casinos No!, said Black Bear has been promising since last year to announce a partner “next month.”

“They can’t find one until this Lewiston (casino) issue is settled,” he said. “The market can’t sustain two big casinos within 20 miles or so.”

In 2008, a prior casino proposal for Oxford County was supported by a Las Vegas company, Olympia Gaming, but voters defeated it.

MaineToday Media State House Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:

[email protected]