Oxford casino site chosen

PARIS — Investors in the proposed $184 million casino and resort have signed an option for land in Oxford, one of them said Thursday night.

Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Both sides of the statewide casino question demonstrate outside Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris on Thursday night, where a public informational meeting was held by backers of the proposed $184 million development.

Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Zizi Vlaun of Otisfield and John Williams, Oxford Hills Chamber of Commerce executive director, put their arms around each other during a public informational meeting Thursday night on a proposed casino in Oxford. Williams wore a pro casino button while Vlaun wore a "Vote No on 1" T-shirt.

Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Major investors of a proposed casino in Oxford sit in the front row during a public informational meeting Thursday night at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris. From left are Gary Bahre, his father, Bob Bahre, Steve Barber, Mimi Barber, Rupert Grover, Suzanne Grover and Jim Boldebook. Bob Bahre said after the meeting that the group has signed an option on more than 100 acres of land in Oxford to build the $184 million casino and four-season resort.

Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

About 150 people listen as Rob Lally, co-owner of Mt. Abram ski resort, speaks about the proposed $184 million casino and resort at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris on Thursday. Lally is one of the investors in Black Bear Entertainment, developers of the project.

Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Dr. Thomas Hewson, his wife, Kerry, 3-year-old daughter, Lauren, and 2-year-old son, Grady, of Norway attend the public informational meeting on the proposed Oxford casino Thursday night in Paris. The Hewsons recently moved from Detroit, a city with three casinos, Thomas Hewson said.

Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Rob Lally, co-owner of Mt. Abram ski resort in Greenwood, speaks about the proposed $184 million casino and resort during a public informational meeting at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris on Thursday. Lally is an investor in the project.

“It's over 100 acres. It's a beautiful piece of land,” investor Bob Bahre told the Sun Journal after the public informational meeting on the proposed development.

Bahre, one of the investors with casino developer Black Bear Entertainment, said a deposit has been made on the property and will be forfeited after 30 days if the statewide vote on Nov. 2 to allow the casino fails.

“That's only right,” he said of the agreement. He declined to elaborate further about the deal or location of the land.

About 150 people — some for, some against the casino — attended the meeting sponsored by the Oxford Hills Chamber of Commerce and held at The Forum at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School. Chamber directors previously voted to back the casino question on the ballot.

Dozens of proponents, wearing white "Yes on 1" T-shirts and carrying signs demonstrated peacefully outside the school, as did opponents wearing yellow neon T-shirts. Some passed out literature to those entering the building.

Both sides were told from the start that the session was informational only.

“This is a non-adversarial event. Everyone understand? Got it? This is a non-adversarial event,” warned chamber Executive Director John Williams. He introduced Rob Lally, co-owner of Mt. Abram ski resort in Greenwood and an investor in Black Bear Entertainment.

Also present were investors Steve Barber, former president and CEO of Barber Foods in Portland; Rupert and Suzanne Grover of Grover Gundrilling in Norway; Jim Boldebook, founder of Creative Broadcast Concepts, an auto ad firm in Biddeford; Bahre of Alton, N.H., former owner of Oxford Plains Speedway and New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon; and his son and business partner, Gary Bahre, also of Alton, N.H.

“It's what makes us very unique this time around,” said Lally of the investors. Two years ago a similar plan by an outside group to operate a casino in Oxford Hills failed in a statewide referendum.

Lally said an operator is going to be hired who could come from outside of Maine but, he stressed, “We're going to stay in control.”

“The most exciting thing about this is the jobs,” he said. There will be 1,700 permanent, year-round new jobs with an annual payroll of more than $80 million, he asserted.

“These are all jobs we're committed to going to the people of Oxford, the people of Maine,” Lally said. “Whenever possible,” Maine companies will be hired for construction and other jobs, he added.

“We will create jobs now,” he said.

He said the casino will generate $60 million is tax revenue, of which $1 million will go directly to Oxford County, and a large percentage into the state's education funds.

Local business owners and others questioned Lally about the possibility of their good help being lured to casino jobs, the possible negative effects, such as drunken driving and embezzlement, from having a casino and how much of the money spent at the casino would come from outside of Maine.

While Lally said an estimated 30 percent of the casino visitors will be out-of-state tourists, casino opponent Scott Vlaun challenged that statement saying that leaves 70 percent of Mainers putting their own money into the operation. Vlaun then asked how much of the “Maine” money would stay with the operator/owner, which brought investor Jim Boldebook to his feet declaring, “People have a choice to spend their money.”

Lally assured the audience, which included area town officials, residents, small business owners and others, that tourists who come to the Oxford Hills casino will also spend money at other businesses in the area.

“The rising tide raises the ships,” he said in reference to one business helping others in the area.

Question 1 on the Nov. 2 ballot asks statewide voters if they want to allow a casino with table games and slot machines at a single site in Oxford County.

ldixon@sunjournal.com

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Comments

 's picture

Mendros didn't get his group

Mendros didn't get his group fined $50,000 for lying about lobbying like Peter Martin did to Oxford.

I'll take a competent honest guy I don't like over a guy who gets his clients fined.

 's picture

Well, at least we know

what he's sleeping with.

 's picture

Given those involved in this

Given those involved in this venture, Oxford VS Lewiston. The Lewiston crowd led by the 'Don't look like he's starving' Monstrosity clearly should be given the heave ho! GO OXFORD COUNTY.

 's picture

another fear tactic

I hear that argument and it does not make sense. Of course they will have to bring in expericnced people in certian positions but the majority of the jobs will go to maine people, averaging about 35K a year with benefits. tell an out of work person in Oxford or Androscoggin county we should be thumbing our noses at that. We have a great work force they would be stupid not to use them. It sounds like your wife is exaclty the type of teacher we should be saving not being put out to pasture. Great teachers need to be rewarded, bad teachers need to go! Go see the movie "waiting for superman" and decide for yourself if we are creating a generation of sub standard educaters and uneducated and uninformed students. This nation better wake up or we are going to be left in the dust!!!!! VOTE YES ON 1

 's picture

The study they quote says

The study they quote says these are not new jobs. They are jobs that will be lost in Auburn from closed restaurants and moved to Oxford.

Its not 2700 new jobs, its only 2700 jobs in Oxford. And they still won't tell us where they want to build. Why the secrecy?

It makes a lot more sense in downtown LA.

William Cordwell's picture

yes on the casino

I have lived in this area all but 5 years of my life so far. I remember when Robert Bahre moved here i admit i was a young man at the time. From the time he came here he has worked his ass off to better this area. he created jobs, housing, income for lots of people who had very little. He would have done even more if the thick headed people in the area, mostley out of staterswho voted no on the expansion of the racetrack. If they had voted for that we may not have needed a casino. I guess people think he is involved now because his bank account is getting low. Well i dont. I still think he has the best interest of the people in mind. I would guess all his projects havn`t been winners but i`m betting this one will be. What will we have to lose. Since BOB moved to N.H. i have seen my home town go to hell in a handbasket. Most everything he has a hand in turns into a gold mine. Have you checked the price of gold today?

Jim  Riman's picture

casino

First, do you really think that Mainers are going to get the high paying jobs? I doubt it. Second, if you think times are tough now, wait until those that are struggling now try to hit that one big payoff only to lose everything. About teachers, my wife taught for approximately 35 years. She was a music teacher. She not only taught instrumental, but did chorus and general music. She also gave free guitar lessons before and after school. She offered holiday musicals in the fall which she did on her own time. She would attend her students sporting events. She had 2 years to go for retirement but was laid off this summer and replaced with a kid out of college to save money. Tell me if the system is fair

Jerome Young's picture

I still don't like the

I still don't like the wording of these articles. Black Bear is proposing a RESORT that offers gaming. Also if Casino's No is against gambling and gaming and all that. Why haven't they been working to shut down the Lottery or Powerball? People here are really right on. The state currently is a giant sink hole of spending. The taxes promised with this resort, will just disappear into that magical black hole called the "GENERAL FUND." But, Oxford County is one of the most beautifull places on earth, we need a new Resort there. Vote Yes

 's picture

it's about time

it's about time

 's picture

Maine always seems to be

Maine always seems to be against anything that will bring jobs to the people. It's ok that they go to people everyplace else. Had several chances for liquid natural gas plant but of course the governor didn't want those and they went other places. Now if I lived in a state with one of the highest poverty rates in the nation, I think I would tend to vote for things that would bring these jobs to my state.

 's picture

Wait a minute, scott, how can you say teachers

are overpaid when a seasoned teacher of twenty years makes less tha a rookie cop who just joined the force. What's wrong is our priorities, education is more important than supporting Dunkin Donuts.

 's picture

Casino

Bring it on I am ready to vote yes!

 's picture

Vote Yes on 1

Eddie...your comments are right on!

I am sick of the naysayers who don't over any alternative to growth, development and real live jobs! This is a no-brainer--- vote yes to local investors...local jobs

Terry Donald's picture

They're doing it all wrong

This is being put together backwards. Every other place in the country, where casinos recently have been created, are first voting to approve, then coming up with sites, plans, investors, operators etc. Case in point is Indiana, over a decade ago their referendum allowed for a certain number of riverboat casinos in designated zones. Once that was approved then experienced casino operators came to the sate with their plans and proposals. It ended up being a bidding war between companies, and the winner was Indiana. Billions of dollars got thrown at the state, money that was used for infrastructure improvements, school upgrades you name it. The state got to set the ground rules on exactly where the money goes, and the results for them have been stellar. What Maine gets, again, is a company formed behind closed doors, one that set the ground rules themselves, and is giving us nothing but promises. Casino operators can make billions of dollars per year, if they do it right. Let's thing very very hard before we hand over the reins to a group of people that has never run gambling operations of any kind.

 's picture

none

I don't have a problem with the Casino. I do have a problem with how referendums are run. What is this the 5-6 time a casino question has been on the ballot. I guess their plan is working. Keep bringing it up until it gets a yes vote.

 's picture

Lets get on with this and vote already!

The No people have been fear mongering for years and to this day the only job they have created is Dennis Bailey. We now have 5 repsected Maine businesspeople ready able and willing to invest 165 million dollars to create jobs with benefits and send deperatly needed funding to K-12 education all over Maine. Hell Androscoggin County will recieve over 2 million with about $700,000 going to Lewiston each and every year. I am tired of hearing people say "can't we do better then this" offering no solution and just complain. Is casino gambling ever going to be the economic polocy that will drive Maine, of course it won't, but a modest resort in Oxford County will not change the image or fabric of Maine. Dont let the fear mongers win again. It's time to take charge and send the No People packing. It's time to vote YES ON 1.

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