Casino control off to Kentucky; an electrifying win

On June 5 last year, the Oxford Casino opened its doors and welcomed eager customers.

Six months later, it reported $30 million in net revenues from slot machines and table games.

Three months after that —  yesterday — Churchill Downs announced it will purchase the Oxford gaming operation for $160 million in cash.

So much for local control and Maine ownership.

In the campaign seeking voter support for the $165 million Oxford Casino, voters were assured this project was locally conceived, would be locally financed and locally controlled.

We heard the same assurance afterward, too.

As soon as votes were counted in November 2010, Rob Lally, real estate investor, Mt. Abram Ski area co-owner and a member of the Black Bear Entertainment group, said: "The control and the Maine ownership is not going away."

And, yet, less than a year later it has.

Wherever Dennis Bailey of CasinosNo! was on Friday, be sure he was telling someone “I told you so.”

The first sign that the casino would not be entirely locally owned came in November 2011, a year after voter approval, when the Maine Gambling Control Board released the casino’s business application revealing that Black Bear had sold a 25 percent share to New York investment house Och-Ziff Real Estate Advisors.

Bob Bahre and his son Gary Bahre own 30 percent of the property, according to that application, and the remaining 45 percent ownership is shared by Lalley; Steve Barber, former president and CEO of Barber Foods in Portland, and his wife; James Boldebook, who owns an advertising agency in Biddeford; and Suzanne and Rupert Grover, who own a company in Norway.

That’s a lot of local ownership and, to date, the owners have certainly been involved in the operation.

They have also been good to their collective word about the economic benefits of the project, reporting in January that the then-seven-month-old project supported 429 new jobs, had paid $14.8 million in tax revenues and spent millions more for local services from Maine vendors.

In addition, the casino was constructed by Maine companies Cianbro Corp. of Pittsfield and Sargent Corp. of Stillwater, and owners have been exceedingly generous in donating to local causes and diligent about policing behavior on their property.

So, all in all, the nearly-all-locally owned Oxford Casino has been a good neighbor.

But, given the repeated and unrelenting emphasis of local ownership in order to win voter approval for the project in the first place, the announcement that the property has moved so quickly to the ownership of a Kentucky conglomerate is a jaw dropper.

Bahre, in explaining his support for the sale, said the project has always been about job creation. And that’s true.

“You hear Churchill Downs and you know it’s not a flea bag operation.”

That’s also true.

You know it’s not local, either.

*

We have a suggestion for Jordan Hall, Derek Fickett and Kyle Sheehan once they graduate from the electrical program at Lewiston Regional Technical Center: establish the firm Gold, Silver & Bronze Electric.

If that’s too big a mouthful, it could be called GSB, not to be confused with the Stanford Graduate School of Business that goes by the same acronym.

Hall, Fickett and Sheehan, high schools students at Poland, Edward Little and Lisbon, respectively, recently earned gold, silver and bronze medals in the electrical wiring division at the annual state Skills USA Competition.

All three prizes have never been awarded to a single program — in this case, LRTC — before. These students are, according to LRTC Director Rob Callahan, “something to crow about.”

They’re also people to watch for in the future as we search for local, skilled and efficient electricians.

Congratulations to them for this uncommon achievement.

And to what looks like a rosy professional future.

jmeyer@sunjournal.com

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.

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Comments

AL PELLETIER's picture

Mark and Frank

We're on the same page with this one. The only logical reason I can find for this totally unexpected move is Bob Bahre's way of doing business. He has a track record (pardon the pun) of building businesses and turning them over for a fat profit. This is entrepreneur-ism at it's finest and the American way of becoming successful.
I have a deep respect for Bob and his son and hope this whole casino deal is what I would expect from a Maine businessman I admire.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Perhaps profits are

Perhaps profits are overinflated and hyped up just to command a higher sale price. We’ll see what happens in the next year or two.

Moreover, what is missing from the article is content on where did the largest portion of these profits come from - from instate patrons or out-of-state patrons.

This bit of information is very important to know when making economic success claims. That is, how much Casino revenue was simply diverted from another segment of Maine’s economy?

How much money was not spent in other businesses because it was spent in the casino? How many jobs were lost due to spending shifts from other businesses to the casino?

Without knowing the big picture, no one should look at casino revenue and job creation in isolation as a win.

 's picture

Congratulations to the electrical students

Congratulations is in order for these three students for demonstrating the skills necessary, amidst tough competition, to earn gold, silver and bronze at the recent Skills USA Competition. Congratulations is also in order for their LRTC instructors!

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Just looking at the numbers.....

Why, would anyone who has any interest in a financial entity, that has proven profitable, essentially give the whole thing up, for less than the projected profits of two years. I just find it difficult to grasp, that anyone would invest that much time and money just to create so called jobs. Something ain't right. I'd be curious to see where all the front money came from, and just how long this relationship has existed between Black Bear Entertainment Group, and Churchill Downs. My overall complaint with all this is, why wasn't there even a mention in the paper that the Casino was even for sale? Is there no one locally able to operate the Casino? They've been doing pretty good so far. One other question, is it a coincidence that all this comes out while our illustrious Governor is on vacation in Jamaica?????

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Welcome to ME'Tucky....the

Welcome to ME'Tucky....the way life will never be.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Frank ? We agree ?

Frank ? We agree ? Something's fishy in Denmark ME •
t y v m , L S J ® for doing what you do , so well , consistently . " So much for local control and Maine ownership . "
We still " . ..have the best government money can buy ." - Samuel Clements , a.k.a. Mark Twain ? 1 8 6 8
ME smells a bit ( or byte ? ) like the stinking U S election contribution laws our U S Federal govt. recently enacted . Now North Koreans , Syrians , and the red Chinese can buy U S politicians . They can . It's a fact . $$ talks . B S walks . And after all is said and done , Rev. Sun Young Moon ( South Korean meglo-mainiac ) still owns the Washington Times , too , doesn't he ? We'll survive all this . Gambling is not an undustry . It's entertainment
Do review your Hon Gov's. political contributors one more time , if you can , whilst looking at his 2012 tax return . Smelly paper mills ? The Sierra Club ? Wind farm erectors ? Tourism backers ? Liƒe's ƒunny , isn't it . All politics - is - local , after all
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_K%C5%ABhi%C5%8D_Day
& Alo'ha from Pahoa and Happy Easter everyone . Sincerely , Steve Dosh and ohana
btw - the Merrie Monarch World Hula competition starts here next week in Hilo HI u s a
b t w - Your Hon Gov. is probably smoking ganja right now , nude . It's a joke , only a joke , Mainahs *<;-Q~

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