The owners and backers of Maine's only casino have formed a coalition to fight what could be the state's second casino.
Hollywood Slots Hotel and Raceway, the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Indian Township, the Maine Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association, the Greater Bangor Convention and Visitors Bureau and others on Monday filed paperwork with the state to formally form Citizens Against the Oxford Casino.
The proposed Oxford casino includes a 500-seat convention center and 200-room hotel. The plan has been put forth by Black Bear Entertainment, a group of private Maine business people that include Oxford residents Suzanne and Rupert Grover and Barber Foods owner Stephen Barber. Maine voters will approve or reject the casino this November.
Dan Cashman, spokesman for the new Citizens Against the Oxford Casino, said his group feels the casino would be "a bad deal for Maine," though he declined to say precisely why or in what way it would be bad.
"We're going to put all those things together and wage the campaign as the months go on," Cashman said. "But the coalition feels that there is a right way to expand gaming and not a right way. And the way Question 1 is put together is not necessarily in the best interest, in the feeling of the coalition."
Cashman said no single group is spearheading the coalition, but the group's financial filings on Monday showed that only Hollywood Slots and Penn National Gaming Inc., the Pennsylvania-based owner of Hollywood Slots, have so far contributed $50 or more in goods and services to the campaign. Those contributions add up to just over $5,000. No one has given cash.
The paperwork also shows the coalition has so far incurred $43,500 in debt for various travel expenses and services. The largest expense was $35,000 for a Virgina-based consulting firm for polling and survey research. The coalition is also obligated to pay an Ohio-based public affairs firm for campaign management, a New Hampshire-based business for "initial design work by mail strategist," and Brandon Maheu, former Pat McGowan gubernatorial campaign manager, for in-state campaign management.
Cashman declined to say how much the coalition has budgeted for its campaign against the Oxford casino. However, Penn National has spent millions on similar campaigns before. According to the Dayton Daily News, Penn National contributed nearly $38 million to a 2008 campaign to successfully fight a proposed casino in Wilmington, Ohio. At the time, Penn National wanted to put casinos in four other Ohio cities.
The treasurer for Citizens Against the Oxford Casino is listed as Michael K. Mahoney, a registered lobbyist for Penn National. The primary decision makers and fundraisers are listed as: Penn National lobbyist Eric Schippers, Passamaquoddy Gov. William Nicholas, Greater Bangor Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Kerrie Tripp, Maine Harness Horsemen's Association President Timothy Powers, Maine Association of Agricultural Fairs President William McFarland and Maine Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association President Michael Andrew.
The spokesman for Black Bear Entertainment could not be reached for comment.