Local doctor says he's all in for L-A casino

LEWISTON — A local doctor is one of a group of private investors hoping to bring a casino to the city's downtown.

Dr. Ron Chicoine, an anesthesiologist, said Wednesday he was hoping to secure an option to buy the Bates Mill No. 5 land from the Lewiston City Council before going public with a campaign that would involve gathering signatures to put a statewide ballot measure before voters in 2011.

"But the cat's out of the bag," Chicoine said, adding that he is working with former Lewiston City Councilor Stavros Mendros.

Mendros, a professional signature collector for referendum initiatives, was most recently involved in a campaign by Rumford lawyer Seth Carey to bring a private casino to Oxford County. That measure was defeated in 2008, but voters in Lewiston and Auburn favored the measure.

"When we were seeing voters in Lewiston and Auburn supporting these measures by 60 to 70 percent every time, we thought, 'What a great opportunity this was for here,'" Mendros said. "Why not Lewiston?"

Mendros said the campaign plan being partially leaked to the media may be only a small setback because after a newspaper story appeared about the mill proposal, several other local property owners contacted him suggesting alternative sites. He said the group was hopeful to have a site to campaign around as it begins a signature-gathering effort. He was hopeful the City Council would act on the proposal at its next meeting on Dec. 12. It would be the last meeting for this council, which will see four members replaced in January.

Mendros said Chicoine and the others involved wanted to get as much out about the proposal as possible but didn't want to do that before they could secure a site.

"We wanted to get an exciting location nailed down first, is all," Mendros said. The original plan was not to build new but to refurbish the Bates Mill No. 5 into a casino-type resort. When the council decided to have the building razed, the group modified its plan to locate a casino on that property, which borders Main and Canal streets.

Chicoine said he was not at liberty to name the others involved in the proposal, which was discussed in a closed-door session of the City Council on Tuesday.

Chicoine and others had hoped the council would vote to give the investor group an option to buy the 8-acre property where the mill sits, but the council took no action after the executive session, Chicoine said.

He said the proposal had been in the works for several months and councilors had been made aware of it prior to Tuesday. He was disappointed that details had been leaked to the press, he said.

He and Mendros said they were concerned that a group working
to win a referendum vote on a casino in Oxford County in the November 2010 election would outbid them for the space they wanted,
preventing the Lewiston group from moving forward with its campaign.

"Our concern is somebody comes in and scoops it out from under us and blocks what we are doing," Chicoine said. "I'm very disappointed because we were trying to be very discreet until we could secure a site." 

The investor group believes a proposal that aims to help revitalize the downtown's cityscape and economy would be well-received both locally and statewide, Chicoine said.

"This is a good thing for Lewiston-Auburn," he said. "We want to be involved in something good for Lewiston and really wanted something in the heart of the downtown."

Chicoine said he expected to take some criticism from professional colleagues and some in the community who disagree on whether casinos are a form of economic development. He said a casino was the thing most frequently mentioned by people he talks with when discussing economic development ideas for the downtown.

A casino would be an environmentally friendly way to bring jobs and related businesses to the community, he said. It would also add to the city's property-tax base and might help reduce property taxes for residents, including the city's many elderly residents on fixed incomes.

"I really can't think of another industry that doesn't cost anything to taxpayers," Chicoine said.

Peter Martin, the spokesman for Black Bear Entertainment, the group hoping to win a statewide vote for an Oxford County resort-style casino said Tuesday he hoped the City Council would think twice about endorsing Chicoine's plan. He expects his group to win approval from voters next year. If that happens, they would be unlikely to back another casino only 20 miles away. Martin also said Oxford County was in greater economic straits than the Lewiston-Auburn area and that Maine voters would likely recognize that.

If Black Bear's bid for a casino were to lose in 2010, it would be even more unlikely that voters would approve a casino for Lewiston in 2011, Martin said.

"Investors in this proposed Lewiston casino are in a classic Catch-22 situation; it's a real no-win situation," Martin said. "If I were on the City Council, I would be very wary of inking a deal on this proposal." An option like the one Chicoine is seeking could tie up valuable property for two years with little hope it would ever be developed, he said.

Also panning the proposal Tuesday was CasinosNo! spokesman Dennis Bailey.

Bailey first suggested Martin and Mendros may be working together to get two new casinos in Maine in the next two years. Bailey later said the Lewiston proposal was as misguided as all of the others that had been rejected in recent years by Maine voters.

He further challenged the secrecy behind the mill redevelopment proposal.

"I'm just curious to why and who and why it's behind closed doors and
what's going to happen to Oxford," Bailey said."The reality is Lewiston shouldn't
get its hopes up. If Oxford is passed as the (proposed) law is written, Lewiston
couldn't get a casino."

Martin's proposal would prohibit other casinos from being built within 100 miles of the Oxford County casino.

While the Legislature could enact a casino-enabling law, it has typically left those decisions to Maine voters. Lawmakers also could re-craft the law, if passed by voters, to eliminate that 100-mile limit, Martin said.

Bailey believes voters are weary of the casino issue in Maine. "I think people are sort of like, 'Enough already,'" he said. 

Chicoine said his group planned to push on, even if they couldn't secure an option on the mill property.

"We are going to go ahead with this, regardless," Chicoine said.

sthistle@sunjournal.com

 

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Comments

SCOTT THISTLE's picture
staff

If you want to participate

If you want to participate in a non-scientific poll on this issue please do so. I'm curious to what L-A folks and others in Maine are thinking.

http://twtpoll.com/kuaxol

Thanks,

Scott

 's picture

I've voted against previous

I've voted against previous casino proposals, but will vote for the one proposed in Oxford. Fairly reputable backers, a fairly reasonable bill, and a great location.

I don't see the same coming from the backers of the Lewiston proposal.

 's picture

Put the blasted thing out

Put the blasted thing out near the Ramada and other hotels. There is turnpike access and the railway line right there. The last thing downtown needs is more congestion.

-- "I'm here for the beer and nuts. Only I've not found the beer here, but there are plenty of nuts!"

 's picture

First off, I have to agree

First off, I have to agree that a casino would be good for the area, but I do disagree of holding the property waiting for the legal process on whether we can get on or not. I'd much rather get something in there asap if it is possible. If not then that location is the perfect area for a Casino. It is in the center of L/A and that area could handle the traffic. One of the main objections I have always had about a casino in Oxford is that there is the location. Lewiston has access to the turnpike (could also help maybe get the exit 79 that Lewiston has been wanitng), and to top it off L/A is fighting to get a commuter rail and/or a passanger air service. Lewiston also has Greyhound and as most people who have been to Foxwoods and such know thats one of the best ways to get to that casino. As, for the crime that everyone speaks of, I have full faith that both Lewiston and Auburn PD's can handle it. After all Lewiston's police force is the 2nd largest in the State and Lewiston statistically is a safer place then Portland, Bangor, Biddeford, Waterville and is as safe as Bath(http://www.neighborhoodscout.com/me/crime/). For those of you who think that having a casino will make your crime rate rise go to http://www.neighborhoodscout.com/ct/crime/, Montville, CT on that map is where Uncasville is located. Overall it is a good investment for L/A, you get jobs whether they are 800 or 50 they are jobs and you get property tax and all the other taxes along with it. Also, in having a casino it would benefit the new hotels that are coming to L/A, it would benefit the restaurants, bring in more restaurants and possibly bring more retail businesses to L/A. Overall it would bolster not just the economy in L/A, but the whole county. As, for people that are worried about gambling, I don't see the complaining about scratch tickets or the Maine Lotto which is just as addicting.

 's picture

Oxford cannot possibly pass

Oxford cannot possibly pass without a big Yes vote out of LA. There is no way that will happen now. Looks like Oxford is DOA.

Robert Peterson's picture

You want the truth about

You want the truth about casinos and crime, etc.? Look no further than Bangor. http://www.casinosno.org/info.php?info_id=57

 's picture

Zack...you have got to be

Zack...you have got to be kidding! Do you not know the phrase...consider the source? Do you honestly think casinosno is going to post the truth? To exist an organization like casinosno MUST scare people into opening their wallets. That is how they are able to stay in business. If they told you the truth and it wasn't in support of their position...why would you donate money to them? Take a look at the unravelling of science behind global warming. Evidence is coming out that the information was cooked to support the global warming idea. Does it suprise you to know that one of the strongest supporters for global warming and carbon credits is Al Gore...the same guy who made $100 million last year through his ownership of the largest carbon credit trading companies?

 's picture

OK. I read through all those

OK. I read through all those posts and need to give my 5 cents to it also.
I did visit one casino. It was Belterra in Florence Indiana. It's a resort type casino and the actual casino part is a small area on a boat versa the huge complex of hotel, restaurants, shops, golf course etc. The county where is in is easy to be compared to Oxford County - very rural and not many other opportunities. When asked the locals regards finding work they listed some and at the end of the sentence there was "and there is always the casino" This is the biggest employer in that area. There is another casino in the bordering county just 15! miles away. I didn't see any crime or had to be afraid to go out at night - more the opposite, it felt very luxurious in the area around the casino.
I think it would bring up the area quite a bit. As for Oxford, it would make sense to include any recreational possibility into the project.
Did I mention that the property taxes in Switzerland County (where Belterra is) are the lowest I ever have seen?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Here's a group of developers

Here's a group of developers that were willing to refurbish the existing Bates Mill No. 5 facility and turn it into a casino. But, the Lewiston City Council thought it would be a better idea to spend $800 grand of taxpayer money to "raze" it instead.
I may have a patch over one eye, but it is clear that some of this stuff just doesn't make a whole lot of sense. The parrot sez he'd be willing to "administrate" the city for 40 grand, 6 cases of crackers, and a bag of catnip.

 's picture

Bring it on!

Bring it on!

GARY SAVARD's picture

Candiceanne, Oxford County's

Candiceanne, Oxford County's October unemployment rate is 10.3%, not 19%. Androscoggin County's October unemployment rate is 8.1%. Source: Me. Dept. of Labor. Stop pulling numbers out of your @$$.

 's picture

YESSSSS!!! What a GREAT

YESSSSS!!! What a GREAT idea. I support this 110%. I'm tired of supporting the out-of-state casinos, hotels and restaurants. The economic and job market growth in the Lewiston-Auburn area is so needed!

 's picture

Ginger...seriously don't

Ginger...seriously don't quit your day job because I don't see a future for you in the fine art of debate.

I've known Ron Chicoine since high school. He is a GREAT person who wants to make a change. Are we as a nation being so reprogramed to think the pursuit of business profit is a negative thing? If so what would the anti-profiteers think of US history. My profession is economic development and I can say that a casino would be a monumenal economic aggregator. This argument will center on the anti casino people who will argue points of fear and how the casino will change the way of life while the pro casino people will argue with reason, numbers and facts and how it will positively change the community. Well I have always based my decisions on facts, numbers and reason so try to scare me...its not going to work and I hope Ron and his group who are taking on risk make a ton of cash...though pelosi, obama, et. al. will just take it away in the for of taxes....

 's picture

He's an anesthesiologist, he

He's an anesthesiologist, he has a lot of patients. I think it is a great thing for this area and obviously so do others, as he is not the only one trying to get this brought here. I just get so annoyed when people choose to attack the person rather than the issue. I believe he is also trying to do something good for this area with jobs, more business for the local small businesses and another positive for the Bates Mill. Why can't you see that? If you have a problem with the gambling part, then don't gamble and don't support it for that reason, there is no reason to attack the doctor (who has worked with my mother and others that I know, he is a great doctor, he has a wonderful bedside manner and makes patients really feel as relaxed as they can be before a surgery).

RAYMOND FRECHETTE's picture

As has been mentonedin

As has been mentonedin previous posts this would be excellent for Lewiston. Just be careful who is approvedas a developer. You only get one "first shot" at thisand it is your best shot.

 's picture

candiceanne says So a

candiceanne says
So a question for the Sun Journal is why have you allowed a post and repost totaling 4 times...do you support her point of view or is no one editing this page today... I reason something is wrong.

Celsius Admin's picture
staff

Not aware of any glitch. If

Not aware of any glitch. If we were having a problem everybody would be double posting.

DANNY FITZSIMMONS's picture

dont you guys get it ????

dont you guys get it ???? does it take a sledgehammer to pound it into your heads??? and are you as stupid as you look MAINE HAS SAID OVER AND OVER AND OVER NO CASINOS !!!!!!!
AND WE NEED A REF THAT WILL STOP THEM FROM PUTTING IT ON THE BALLOT YEAR AFTER YEAR!!!

 's picture

Since the Lewiston Casino

Since the Lewiston Casino bill hasn't been written yet, it can easily change the Oxford 100 mile restriction to 20 or better yet repeal the Oxford bill entirely in the language of the Lewiston bill. Much better to have one in -LA, if Bangor can handle it so can Lewiston.

Why tear up nice green space and create more sprawl in Oxford when instead they can revitalize a struggling downtown?

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