A new study released by a university economist shows a resort-styled casino built in Oxford would generate $127 million in revenue annually and visitors would spend an additional $51 million for food and services in the area.
The study was commissioned by Maine Taxpayers Taking Charge, which supports a resort casino in Oxford, which goes before Maine voters this November. The study was done by University of Maine Orono Professor of Economics Todd Gabe, according to a release issued Thursday.
Gabe's study does not take a position on whether gaming is positive or negative for the state or region, the release stated.
"I enjoy working with data on topics of interest to Maine residents, but I leave it up to others to debate the issues," Gabe said in a statement. "I encourage people to check out the report and learn more about how I came up with the numbers and how to interpret them."
According to the study's executive summary, the economic contribution of a casino in Oxford, including multiplier effects, "is $282.6 million in sales revenue, 2,784 full- and part-time jobs, and $80.7 million in wages, salaries and benefits."
The report also shows a peripheral economic benefit of an estimated $60.9 million in tax and other government revenue.
The study's results are based on restaurant and lodging taxable sales figures from Maine Revenue Services, hospitality employment data from the U.S. Census Bureau, industry statistics from the American Gaming Association, and hard figures on actual gaming revenues from Hollywood Slots in Bangor, according to the release.
"The idea of the study was to estimate the potential for slot machines in Oxford compared to the Bangor area, and then apply this ratio to actual slot machine revenues from Hollywood Slots," said Gabe. “While this approach should be fairly accurate, it does not tell us the exact source of gaming and other revenues.”
"Gabe is the go-to guy for these types of reports," Dennis Bailey, a spokesman for the anti-casino political action committee, Casinos No! wrote in an e-mail statement.
"In past reports Gabe has done on casinos in Maine, he specifically points out that he is unable to tell whether the money he projects for the casino is really new money into the economy or money that would have been spent somewhere else in Maine's economy anyway."
Bailey said that means a new casino doesn't necessarily equate to a net gain for the economy.
"The pockets of the casino owners will get filled though," Bailey said. "It's another misleading effort by the proponents of the casino."
Dan Cashman, a spokesman for Citizens Against the Oxford Casino, another PAC that includes the owners of Hollywood Slots, said the study notes that it doesn't take into account several important facts, including the differences between the town of Oxford and the city of Bangor.
Cashman said the comparison of a metropolitan area like Bangor to a rural town like Oxford wouldn't make for a solid analysis. The Hollywood Slots casino in Bangor is just another attraction in the city.
"It's just part of the overall puzzle," Cashman said. He said restaurants, lodging and other kinds of attractions and infrastructure were already in place in Bangor.
Cashman also said the study doesn't recognize how the addition of a casino would hurt business at Hollywood Slots and in turn hurt those that benefit from that revenue including Maine's Harness Racing Association, the Maine Agricultural Society and students who receive scholarships as a result of the law that allowed Hollywood Slots to open.
The Oxford proposal also allows for table games and that creates an unfair advantage over Hollywood Slots, Cashman said.
"Giving one operation one set of guidelines and another operation another set of guidelines within the same industry is something we consider to be bad business," Cashman said. "We are all for competition but when you do that you are creating an unlevel playing field."