LEWISTON — Twin Cities officials and business owners on Tuesday touted jobs, economic development and other benefits of a proposed casino in the Bates Mill.
"Our cities have worked hard to make our downtown vibrant again," said local restaurant owner Jimmy Simones. "This Lewiston entertainment complex is the perfect next piece of the puzzle. The debate about gambling in Maine is over. If Bangor and Oxford can have one, why not us?"
Voters statewide will go to the polls Nov. 8 to decide the fate of Lewiston's casino plan. If they approve, it will allow Great Falls Recreation and Redevelopment LLC to buy the sawtooth-roofed building and use it for a casino.
Tuesday's news conference was called to officially launch a political action committee to promote the casino and to urge Mainers to vote yes on ballot Question 3. Called the People of Lewiston-Auburn Committee, the PAC is scheduled to begin television advertising later this week.
The group took advantage of Tuesday's mild weather and held its news conference outside, in the parking lot of Pedro O'Hara's restaurant on Main Street, directly across from Bates Mill No. 5.
"I can only hope that one day, Mill No. 5 will be an exciting complex," said Troy Kavanaugh, co-owner of Pedro O'Hara's. "I don't feel in any way that this hurt my business. It will only create excitement down here in the waterfront and we look forward to the opportunity."
Backers, including Lewiston Mayor Larry Gilbert, City Councilor Mark Cayer and Auburn City Councilor Belinda Gerry, said the casino would bring 1,000 jobs to the Twin Cities, as well as millions in new revenues.
"This is exactly what Lewiston and the Androscoggin region need and the timing could not be better," Cayer said. "This area has long been under-utilized. Significant investment in the area has already been made and we are completing more. It has easy access to the Maine Turnpike. The city is also well-poised to deal with an an entertainment center such as the Lewiston casino."
They also touted the revenue it would bring to the rest of the state. The group estimated a casino would return between $21 million and $30 million to state, regional and local governments and agencies each year. That money goes to a wide array of groups, including local towns and would-be competitors. As much as $4.5 million could go to local governments — Lewiston, Auburn, Androscoggin County and surrounding towns.