AUGUSTA — Opponents of a casino in Oxford stopped the recount of the November ballots Monday after no appreciable changes in results were found.
"We ended the recount today," Dennis Bailey, the spokesman for CasinosNo! said Monday. "We had about 20 percent of the total vote recounted and we were not seeing any big discrepancies."
Opponents asked for a recount of the statewide referendum when the final tally after Nov. 2 showed they had lost by only 4,601 votes, or less than 1 percent of estimated 564,000 votes cast statewide.
In a release issued by Mark Robinson, a spokesman for Black Bear Entertainment, LLC said his side hoped to mend fences and move forward in a constructive manner in Oxford County.
“They had the right to ask for the recount," Robinson said. "We admire the dedication and passion that Zizi Vlaun and her associates obviously had for their cause. We also appreciate that the data produced by the recount proves Election Day results were rock solid. Saving Maine taxpayers additional expense is the right decision, and they deserve credit for having made it today.”
Robinson said they now hoped to move forward and that includes working with opponents in the best interests of the town, county and state.
"It’s time to let bygones be bygones" Robinson said in a written statement. "The Black Bear group is hopeful some casino foes in Oxford County will eventually contribute constructive criticism and helpful suggestions to the project’s management team."
At present, between 60 to 80 people were already working on the casino project, Robinson said.
Black Bear Entertainment, LLC is the private ownership group that will build the casino at an estimated cost $165 million. The plan calls for a four-season type resort to be constructed at the height of Pigeon Hill off Route 26 in Oxford.
Bailey said conceding this vote didn't mean the groups opposing casinos in Maine were giving up.
"It is clear to us the results don't change the fact that this was one of the closest referendum results in Maine history," Bailey said.
The state was close to being evenly divided on the issue, which means a lot of voters still oppose casino gambling, he said.
Bailey said the groups he's working with believe the referendum law setting up the new casino may be unconstitutional as it is written in a way that does not allow anyone else to own or operate a casino within 100 miles of the Black Bear project.
"It's very clever in the way it is written," Bailey said. "But it would be like writing a law that says only I can own a gas station in Oxford County and I don't think that would stand up to a Constitutional challenge."
Bailey said the groups opposed had not regrets about asking for the recount and denied it cost the state a lot of money to conduct.
"I think this was a good exercise, this was a very close election, this is just an audit, just a check on the vote," Bailey said. "I think if the shoe was on the other foot, the other side would have done the same thing."
He credited the Secretary of State's Office for running an accurate election and also a smooth and efficient recount process.
Bailey said some discrepancies that did turn up showed the state needed to review some of the voting equipment being used in some towns as ballots that were easily read by people were registering as blank ballots in ballot-counting machines.
Bailey said the Secretary of State's office planned to review those situations and improve them as needed.