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