BANGOR — The campaigns for and against a proposed casino in Oxford heated up online again Tuesday.
A group opposing the ballot measure aimed at bringing a resort casino to Oxford has set up a campaign Web site, according a release issued by the group, Citizens Against the Oxford Casino.
The Web site, baddealformaine.com, "will inform Maine citizens about the problems with the proposal, and will give those who agree that the Oxford proposal is flawed, a place to join the coalition," the release stated.
“This coalition came together just a couple of months ago to oppose the referendum on the Oxford casino,” Dan Cashman, a spokesman hired to represent the group, said in a prepared statement. “In that short time, we have been talking with people throughout the state about the details of the proposal – and once voters see the loopholes and unfair advantages associated with it, they tend to agree that this proposal is simply a bad deal for Maine.”
The group Cashman represents is largely funded by the Pennsylvania-based Penn National Gaming, owners of Bangor's Hollywood Slots, currently Maine's only casino.
Proponents of the casino plan, the Black Bear Entertainment political action committee, have spent more than $515,000 on their campaign, according to the most recent state campaign finance reports available online.
Black Bear is a group of local and Maine business people including which is financially backed by several prominent Maine business people, including Suzanne and Rupert Grover of Norway and Stephen Barber of Cape Elizabeth.
Opponent PACs, including Citizens Against the Oxford Casino and Casinos No!, have spent an estimated $62,000 opposing the measure so far.
Among the reasons Citizens Against the Oxford Casino cite for the opposition is the unlevel playing field that would be created by passing Question 1 on the Nov. 2 ballot.
If passed, Oxford would be the only gaming facility in the state allowed to operate table games. The coalition says that kind of monopoly would not only cost Maine jobs, but it would also send a message to future investors that Maine is not open for business, Cashman said.
The Oxford proposal contains language that would not allow any other gaming facilities to open within a 100 mile radius of Oxford. That distance would shut the door on new jobs or growth in the gaming industry throughout all of southern Maine, most of western Maine, portions of midcoast Maine, central Maine, and eastern Maine, Cashman said.
“There are lots of numbers being thrown around about new potential visitors to Oxford because of a casino,” said Kerrie Tripp, executive director of the Bangor Convention and Visitors Bureau, which is a member of the coalition. “But knowing the tourism industry from an insider’s perspective, I can tell you that this type of a facility will not draw people in just because it exists."
Tripp said other New England states and Canadian provinces have recently approved new casinos changing the landscape for Maine in that industry.
"It has been approved in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New Brunswick. Maine is soon going to be surrounded by states with gaming facilities," Tripp said. "So there needs to be more of a tourism infrastructure in place to draw people to a gaming facility. Right now, I’m not sure Oxford is prepared for it.”
The group also charged that the Oxford casino would cost the state tax revenue as the language creating it gives that group a better tax rate than Bangor's Hollywood Slots.
Randy Seaver, a campaign worker for Black Bear, said Tuesday that they were not "going to get into the weeds" with their opponents but did issue a short and terse statement.
“We’re not surprised that the opposition is attempting to distort the facts of this campaign," the Black Bear Entertainment release stated. "But we’re confident that Maine voters understand the importance of this issue and that they are excited about the approval of Question 1, which will provide a significant boost to Maine’s economy by creating more than 2,700 permanent jobs and generating at least $60 million in state revenue—without raising taxes.”
That PAC's web site is www.takechargemaine.com.