Lewiston casino supporters bristle at editorials

LEWISTON — Opinions were flying on the Lewiston casino vote Wednesday after two of the state's largest newspapers encouraged their readers to vote against the measure.

Editorials in the Portland Press Herald and Bangor Daily News suggested that the time is not right for a casino in Lewiston, but both papers support casino efforts in other parts of the state.

The Press Herald editorial opined that economic growth in Lewiston might be stymied by the addition of a casino. At the Bangor paper, editorial writers warned that a casino in Lewiston might draw people away from the one already under construction in Oxford and another proposed in Biddeford.

Supporters of a Lewiston casino rankled at the notion that other cities are ready for gaming tables but Lewiston is not.

"It was nice to get a nice pat on the back from the Portland Press Herald about how well we have done and therefore we don't need a casino," said Lucien Gosselin, executive director of the Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council. "Some of us are a little frustrated about these issues."

That "pat on the back" came in the form of praise for what city leaders in Lewiston have already done. But the compliment segues into the assertion that building a casino in Lewiston could amount to a developmental setback.

"The fact is, downtown Lewiston has undergone significant revitalization, albeit in a slow, careful manner," the Press Herald wrote. "Most of its landmark mills have been reborn as commercial and retail outlets. On Lisbon Street, young entrepreneurs have opened cafes and art galleries and brought a fresh outlook to the beleaguered neighborhood's future.

"Lower Lisbon Street, once host to an infamous strip of bars, now is home to Kaplan University and modern offices. These developments have been a decade in the making, despite being slowed by one of history's most difficult economic periods.

"In short," the Press Herald wrote, "there is a fair wind blowing through Lewiston, which the proposed casino could block."

Lewiston city leaders and casino supporters were quick to disagree. The problem transcends the casino issue, they say. The greater force at work is the ongoing bias against the city.

"It's maddening," Mayor Laurent F. Gilbert said. "We've got people in Bangor and in Portland saying what's best for us? I don't know if they've even been here.

 "We know what we've got here," Gilbert said. "We're talking about jobs and economic development, not just for the city of Lewiston, but for Maine."

The people who are most ardent in their support of the casino, Gilbert said, are those who live and do business in the downtown area.

"People want it downtown because they know what it can do," he said.

The Bangor Daily News also praised Lewiston and then figuratively pulled the rug out, arguing that building a casino here is a bad idea — for Lewiston and for the rest of the state.

"Lewiston officials would do better to build ties to the economic hub that is Greater Portland and persuade developers to save some, if not all of the Bates Mill through incentives," the Bangor paper opined. "A Lewiston casino is one too many. Question 3 should be defeated."

Gilbert compared the attitudes of the papers in Portland and Bangor to those faced when Lewiston tried to lure a postal distribution center here. It ultimately went to Scarborough.

"They just think, 'Oh, we can't let Lewiston have that,'" Gilbert said. "It's always been that way."

Question 3 asks voters whether a casino should be built in Lewiston. Supporters say the effort would bring millions of dollars to the Lewiston-Auburn area and create thousands of jobs. That could help keep taxes down, supporters say, and the casino would provide funding to veterans' groups and senior citizen services.

That might be true, the Bangor Daily News allowed. But success in Lewiston could come at the expense of casinos in other areas.

"The Lewiston project, though it is an innovative initiative that would save a historic mill building and probably bring traffic to downtown restaurants and stores, would hamper the prospects for financial success of the voter-approved Oxford facility less than 15 miles to its west," the editorial states. "It also probably would hurt a Biddeford casino, less than 50 miles away as the crow flies."

The editorial writers also fret about the possibility of a gambling explosion. With one licensed casino operating in Bangor and another under construction in Oxford, the state might find itself suddenly overrun with gambling establishments.

Scott Smith, community development director the Black Bear Development in Oxford, chose diplomacy when asked for his thoughts on the editorials and subsequent reactions. The voters, he said, should be trusted to make the right decisions.

Voters will decide the issue on Nov. 8.

mlaflamme@sunjournal.com

Portland Press Herald editorial

Bangor Daily News editorial

Yes on 3 website

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Comments

 's picture

Who are you working for Mr. Hobbs?

Seems like an awful lot of posts, in the last few days, to validate your position Mr. Hobbs.

I'm all for jobs, but who in L/A or Maine is qualified to be a manager, slot mechanic, security operative, etc.. at a casino? If you're all about lower tier jobs (servers, custodial crew, etc) then maybe this is the way to go. They're going to need people from away to fill these higher tier positions until people are trained up. How long does it take to train up someone to be qualified for the next level of positions?

Personally, I don't care if it fails or passes. My concerns lay with the numbers being presented seem, I guess, hypothetical at best and the promises of everyone sharing in the pot of riches.

Maybe I'm off-base, maybe I'm just too skeptical based on the prior history of some associated with the campaign. *shrug*

 's picture

The reason in which there are

The reason in which there are an awful lot of posts is because there has been an awful lot of pieces being written about the issue, whether for or against. Of course not all jobs that are coming into a casino are going to be from Maine, as you have stated not many, if any are qualified to do so. As I have said in past posts, to me a job is job, whether it be waiting a table, dealing cards, security, etc... The fact of the matter is people complain about the welfare and people on the state, this is one way to give those a chance to have a job and get off the system and contribute. People outside of Maine for some odd reason look at Maine and they envision hard working folks and to me the majority of Mainers are just that, they don't care if they are shoveling cow crap, lumber jacking, truck driving, fishing... They just want a chance to work for their money, people look down upon these "lower tier" jobs, but like me many people just see it as a job is a job. Who are we to judge what is a "lower tier" job? You are from Lewiston, look around, what made Lewiston what it is you see? Mills. You think those are "higher tier" jobs? No, but it was a job that paid your bills and fed your family.

As for the Lewiston group, they have been more up front with the best, worst and middle case scenarios when it comes to how much they would be split up and potentially how many jobs they would create. How many other groups have given that?

http://yesforlewiston.org/Casino_Benefits.pdf
There is a link to where they out right give the scenarios, take a look for yourself.

Bad deal for Maine

I don't think that anyone should support a casino in Lewiston OR Biddeford. It just doesn't make sense, Casinos are all about keeping you inside - not having you walk around the area and spend money.

Think about it.

Then vote NO on 2 and 3.

 's picture

That is kind of the point

That is kind of the point with the Lewiston casino, it is unique when it comes to that. I would much rather have a casino that is trying to help out local businesses then have them horde all the money into their business. Clearly you don't understand that this group of individuals is trying to help the economy in their city, not just line their pockets with money, as most have been saying.

 's picture

Also, I am still waiting on

Also, I am still waiting on the Sun Journal's editorial about how voters shouldn't vote for the Lewiston casino. They had one up last year when people in Lewiston were voting to have the Great Falls Rec. buy Bates Mill #5. Come on Sun Journal, our hometown newspaper show us who you really support.

 's picture

The state of Maine has never

The state of Maine has never been about helping out Lewiston (and Auburn). Unlike places like Bangor and Portland, everything Lewiston-Auburn has is what they have done themselves. That's why those who live and are from Lewiston-Auburn should hold our heads high. While Portland receives state money to help with ports (and many more projects) and Bangor who was pretty much handed Bangor Slots by the state (more importantly ex. governor Baldacci). People in Maine always are talking down upon Lewiston, but whenever Lewiston has a chance to do something for themselves they are shot down. It wasn't too long ago that Bates Mill #5 was in talks about becoming a convention center, but was shot down by the state, if voted down this would be just another case. Those that live in Lewiston-Auburn and the entire Androscoggin county should be behind this. This ballot question may have Lewiston's name on it, but it effects all the surrounding city/towns. Not with just the jobs that would be there, but with the The ENTIRE state itself will benefit with all the programs that they will put money into East/West highway, cleaning up rivers in Maine, downtown revitalization, helping the elderly, money for veterans, putting money for scholarships, etc... While Biddeford, Bangor and the Washington county. I have honestly looked at 5-6 pages of the Oxford casino and only find that they are going to be taxed 46% of the winnings. None of these other proposals benefit Maine like the Lewiston proposal.

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