Lewiston casino failure angers supporters

AUBURN — As plans for a downtown casino in Bates Mill No. 5 in Lewiston fell overwhelmingly at the polls Tuesday night, the mood at the campaign's headquarters changed from sadness to anger.

Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Lewiston Mayor Larry Gilbert, left, Stavros Mendros and Ron Chicoine talk to Question 3 supporters after the Lewiston casino failed at the polls on Tuesday.

Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Margery Mars, left, Pat Gilbert, right, and a woman who would not give her name, listen as Question 3 supporters concede at the Hilton Garden Inn in Auburn on Tuesday.

Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Ron Chicoine, left, Stavros Mendros and Mendros' wife Cindy look at early election results at the Hilton Garden Inn in Auburn on Tuesday.

While casino supporter Peter Robinson hurled insults at casino foes celebrating on a television tuned to the nightly news, campaign spokesman and Lewiston Mayor Larry Gilbert blamed everyone from Gov. Paul LePage to the Maine media.

"Do I sound upset?" Gilbert said. "You bet. I'm upset at the governor, for getting involved in things when he said he wouldn't. I smelled a rat then and I smell one now."

Question 3 failed spectacularly at the polls, picking up only 37 percent support statewide as of 10:30 p.m. The casino won in Lewiston, but by a mere 900 votes — not the kind of hometown supporter backers needed.

"I'm shocked that we didn't do better," said Stavros Mendros, manager of Great Falls Recreation and Redevelopment. His group backed the Lewiston plan.

In their hearts, casino backers know they have the right idea, Mendros said. They're sure local people recognize that and support their plan.

"I've been hearing something more and more over the last few days, and that's 'thank you,'" Mendros said. "I had one woman come up to me last week and she said, 'Thank you for supporting us, thank you for believing in Lewiston.' And that really hits home for us. That's why we're doing this."

The casino idea is not dead, Mendros said. He'd like to bring it back — and the work will begin right away.

"We'll certainly regroup, go to the city and see what we can do," Mendros said. "We'll regroup, make some changes and shoot for 2013."

Mendros said he was puzzled that the Lewiston proposal drew so much fire from anti-casino forces in the past few weeks. Questions about potential developers and casino managers hurt the campaign.

"Next time, we'll get our developer on board early," Mendros said. He said the group delayed hunting for a developer, spending its energy last summer urging state legislators to pass the Lewiston plan without a referendum.

"I thought we had no chance with the Legislature at first, but when we got some pretty good response, that's where we spent our money and our energy," he said. "We were there for two, three months when we could have been courting developers and securing money for our campaign. That was a miscalculation, and all we ended up having was GTSource. We didn't fund the campaign the way we wanted to."

Great Falls Recreation and Redevelopment agreed to buy slot machines from Kennesaw, Ga.-based GTSource Corp. if the Lewiston casino won voter approval statewide. The company funded much of the group's local campaign.

Mayor Gilbert blamed LePage for the loss, for saying last week that five casinos were too many. That quote was used by casino foes to push against the Lewiston effort, even though LePage later changed his stance.

"I fault the governor," Gilbert said. "It's clearly evident that I don't care for this guy because he comes from Lewiston and he's done nothing for Lewiston. I find that most unfortunate."

Dan Billings, Gov. LePage's chief legal counsel, defended LePage.

"Anyone who knows the governor knows that when he’s asked a question, he answers it," Billings said. "He was asked a question and he answered. It wasn’t a matter of getting involved in the campaign and he never told anyone how to vote. He basically said what he thought about the economics of going from two to five casinos."

Billings said casino supporters should take a closer look at their campaign strategy before blaming others.

"I think people show their true colors when times are tough for them, and that’s what we’re seeing here," Billings said. "Instead of looking at the campaign they ran, they want to lash out at people."

Gilbert also blamed Maine media for having a distorted view of Lewiston.

"The only time people come here to write stories is about negative stories," Gilbert said. "Consequently, what you get is a steady diet of negative things."

Robinson said he was more angry than sad, but he said he feels Lewiston lost its casino the moment Oxford won its casino.

"As soon as they won, they had a vested interest and a huge stake in it and they were willing to fight dirty," Robinson said. "That's exactly what they did, and this is the result."

The gathering was muted, with a handful of supporters stopping by but leaving early as results trickled in.

Casino supporter Steve Palian of Greene said he was disappointed.

"This would have put something back," Palian said. "We've lost textiles jobs, shoe-making jobs; they've all gone overseas. The casino would have provided a good source of revenues, even exceeding what we lost. So it's a shame."


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Laurel Frost's picture

I voted 'Yes' because I

I voted 'Yes' because I couldn't imagine how ticked off I would be if I wanted something in my city that the REST OF THE STATE had to vote and decide my project's fate. And then LePage couldn't bring in any jobs, so he gets whiny with those who are? I think he is suffering from job-creator-envy.

 's picture

Hmmmm....you do realize that

Hmmmm....you do realize that this was a statewide vote, no? .....so the folks in Oxford and surrounding areas would vote no for Lewiston, the folks in Bangor and surrounding areas would vote no for Lewiston, the folks in Biddeford and surrounding areas would vote no for Lewiston, as well as those folks in Washington County would vote no for a casino in Lewiston.

 's picture

listening to him speaking on

listening to him speaking on the the video, Mr. Gilbert, you sure did bring out your best. how you think the Governor had effects on this? come on!

Tim McClure's picture

Too Many Casinos?

I don't get this argument that there will be too many casinos. I don't hear anyone saying there are too many restaurants or car dealerships in Maine. How do you know how many is too many? I would think the developers who are sinking their money into these projects would know what the market can handle.

 's picture

Stealing Jobs

A casino is already being built in Oxford County. Your effort would steal those jobs from our people and give them to your people. You have many more opportunities than we do but you have to resort to stealing jobs???? SHAME ON LEWISTON!!!!!!

 's picture

Really? I mean, c'mon... REALLY?!?!

This may well be one of the most bone-headed comments I've seen in a long time. Seriously? Stealing Jobs?
I voted no for two reasons. 1) The message: "It's our turn" This is the same as my four year old wanting a toy because the other kids at pre-k got one. Just because they got one doesn't mean you deserve one. Make a point with facts and concrete answers.....2) The plan: There was none. At least none that I could discern from the constant incoherent droning every time they were asked questions. Every question was always answered with some obtuse, nebulous phrase or innuendo towards a share of some pie in the sky. What type of jobs? Revenue projections? Good luck, those answers were always delivered in the form of ifs and buts.
What really stuns me is/was the childish response from Moonbeam (yes you Mr. Gilbert!). Was it really necessary for the near tantrum? The message being offered by "Yes" to the voting public stunk. The plan being presented to the voters stunk. The delivery stunk. You want to win over the voting public? Deliver your message in clear, concise, easy to understand answers. Give them a rallying point worthy of remembering. What's our plan? Here's a PDF/Document laying out our mission statement, goals, milestones, and means to accomplish said goals/milestones. If nothing else, a little project management 101 could have gone a long way.
Can the state of Maine support five casino operations? Who knows. If they'd had any sense of a concrete plan, message... I'd have voted yes and let the market determine whether five could survive.

Tim McClure's picture

Stealing Jobs?

So if I open up a restaurant, a car dealership or construction company outside of Oxford, am I stealing jobs? I think not.

 's picture

I want Lewiston to do well

The city deserves to be revitalized. However I have watched all the work done to downtown in recent years, and I couldn't see a casino as anything but a step backwards. Jobs jobs jobs was the mating call of the pro casino groups, but I just kept hearing the voice in my head that said "What kind of jobs?" Do we really want our kids to aspire to graduate high school and become a dealer or a bartender at the casino? Someday they may get to be a manager!

All the while most of the money will go out of state, and every year more and more of the casino users will be from right nearby instead of tourists from away.

I've worked in Mill #5, and it was a pit. Unless there was a lot of work done to mothball it and repair it before it became unused, it's probably even more of a pit now. I keep trying to imagine what it would take to make it a comfortable and inviting environment for anything, much less gambling, and I can't do it. I can see it being fixed and made into a workplace for serious work, since that's what it was designed for, but not a place to relax.

If there had been a real plan, with a complete accounting of who was going to do what and where the money was coming from, and where it would go, I'd appreciate all that work and give a casino initiative another shot, despite my ethical misgivings. But until then I'm satisfied with my vote and am overall pleased that the initiative didn't pass.

 's picture

Death of Lewiston

Lewiston died in 1984 when downtown died. It has been mistake after mistake, bad loans and building parking garages projects. Lewiston is so far in debt (in the multi millions) that this casino project would have guaranteed 3.5 million a year in revenue through 2 million in property taxes and another 1.5 in revenue sharing. Really who cares if outside interests get rich in the process.

Lewiston remains a poverty stricken depressing ex-mill town with nothing to offer but raised property taxes they will have to doi nopw to pay for what this casino would have on our city debt.

Businesses already have left or are leaving for Auburn where property taxes for business is cheaper.

How many of you who live in Lewiston, myself included drive to Auburn for virtually everything? wake up!

Welcome to the city of brick, same old same old and nothing ever changes.

 's picture

I'm awake, you're dreaming.

I've been looking at the numbers, and haven't found the ones you keep referencing. All I've found is the state and the city get a small percentage of casino revenues that has to be split several ways. None of the money is guaranteed, and the casino has to do well for it to even be there for it to be shared out.

Not to mention that unless the casino draws 100% of its business from people who don't pay taxes in Lewiston already then basically at least some of this alleged windfall will be coming from taxpayers. Except that other people get a cut first. That may not matter to you, but it clearly matters to a lot of local people.

There have been a lot of good things to happen to downtown Lewiston since 1984. I'm sorry you're not willing to acknowledge any of them. I have clear memories of not being allowed out of the car when my parents had to stop there as a kid, yet now there are thriving businesses that amazingly don't happen to be pawn shops or adult bookstores! I guess if your definition of going downhill is less pawn shops, head shops, and gambling, yeah Lewiston has gone downhill. Some of us see call centers like LLBean, Banks like BankNorth, and tech companies like Oxford networks as a good thing.

 's picture

Follow the facts and not TV commercials.

You should follow the facts and not propagandist anti-casino tv commercials. http://www.wmtw.com/r/22588270/detail.html#ixzz1d3IQwthy

"City administrators said if a casino is built, Lewiston would receive about $2 million a year in property taxes and at least a million and a half in revenue."

Read more: http://www.wmtw.com/money/22588270/detail.html#ixzz1dGh2zhLi

 's picture

I got better facts

I actually went to the website for city of Lewiston before I posted, and read the agreement granting them the option on Mill #5. I didn't trust anyone's propaganda, and I don't trust projected revenue estimates like the very sketchy ones in the articles you linked.

As I said, the casino has to do well (very well) in order to meet those projections, and the only way those revenues become a windfall to the city that isn't a burden on the locals is if ALL the casino's business is from non taxpayers.

Are you really trying to say that millions of dollars are magically going to float into the city because of estimates given by the Lewiston City council, who you yourself have said haven't done a thing for the city since 1984?

You don't get to chide me for believing anti casino propaganda when you're clearly believing pro casino propaganda without giving it a thorough look.

 's picture

Simple People saw through the veil

The whole notion of how much this would help the area was just a thin veil covering how much it would make a few rich. Casinos don't make money they just move it around, and Lewiston as a tourist destination? come on? Good luck Oxford,

 's picture


Lewiston woiuld have received a guaranteed 2 million dollar a year in property taxes as well as another 1.5 million in revenue sharing. You are misinformed. This was a great oppurtunity for Lewiston to pay its substantial debts which is in the millions that they will be forced to raise property taxes to pay for.

Yeah outside parties would get rich but Lewiston would get a lot in return as well. I can't believe it failed, the details were so clear if people bothered to research it themselves instead of watching anti casino tv commercials who bend the truth to shed a bad light and gullible people swallowed it.

 's picture


No specific developer attached for rebuilding the mill.
No plan for what the casino would look like.
No management company attached to run the casino.
One casino supply company that has been known to make itself part of predatory deals to take advantage of towns desperate for money.

The details were not clear. This wasn't a complete plan and at least Mr Mendros has been able to admit that publicly. If it had been, I might have given the casino a shot.

 's picture

most Mainers are disgusting

When it comes to voting for inportant issues such as casinos, the people in Maine are disgusting. They vote on issues that aren't inportant such as casinos that would create jobs and boost the economy in their already depressed community. Again thats another ploy for the republicans to oust the dems and take over the country. They think so.The vast majority of Dems are and always have been for the poor, and the vast majority of repubs are for the rich and have always been that way. Hopefully people can open their eyes and see this ongoing trend.

Mark Elliott's picture

Democrats have always

Democrats have always supported the poor....with our money! Conservative thinking breeds success and success brings wealth. It is evident in every industry.....

ERNEST LABBE's picture

Mayor Gilbert

The people of Lewiston were not behind this or the casino would have won by a really big margin in it's host city.

 's picture

It won in Lewiston

It won in Lewiston with Lewiston voters and lost to out of town voters. Granted it was a slim margine for lewiston residents who voted but it won in Lewiston.

 's picture


Before any casino comes in I think we need to clean up more of the violence. Casino's breed gamblers, as well as tourists, and crime. With tourists come drugs, guns and bad seeds. Leave the casinos, to las vegas, and find other ways to bring in revenue. Like new places for the seniors, a childrens rec center, maybe another arcade. I used to love going to the dream machine in auburn. I can just see not only tourists gambling but those on welfare. Thinking they might win the big money, take the little money they get and try to win. Then when they are broke, they wonder what happened and want more money. Until we fix the crime and the economy here in our own community, i think the casino should be just that a figment of imagination or a what if. Lewiston is not the place for a casino, now or in the future.

 's picture

You do realize that

You do realize that statistically Lewiston's crime rate is lower then Portland's, Bangor's, Biddeford's, Rockland's and (oh no) Auburn's. Not to mention that there are more towns and cities around Maine that have a higher crime rates. The whole Lewiston is a crime ridden city is humorous, when the fact is that out of all the cities of relative same size, Lewiston has a lower crime rate. The only reason people actually believe that non sense is because the only thing that media shows of Lewiston is the negative. Just saying.

Don't believe me, look for yourselves...

 's picture

lewiston casino

Mr. Gilbert maybe you haven't seen the results of the voters of Maine Paul Lepage had no influence on my vote nor do I think many others. Your spewing wrath at him seems to indicate that there is more to meet the eye in your determination to make sure this passed. Also the people you are pictured with are also good old guys who have a stake in this. wonder what it is. it certainly isn't all the "job" as this area is too impoverished to handle a casino or racino or anything else. let's face it we have spartime.

 's picture

I guess everyone here pretty

I guess everyone here pretty much covered the real issues. I am hoping Black Bear develops a RESORT, that happens to offer gaming. But...we'll see. I thought the Gov characterized the issue's very well. Mayor Gilbert drips of "utopian sweetness and light"....until you disagree....then look out below, his true character becomes evident.

Scott Foster's picture

Talk about negative stories

Mr. Gilbert, every week you spew hateful rhetoric in your column, and yet you feel offended when stories about Lewiston are negative? Sounds like you are reaping what you sow.

 's picture

Missed the chance

Just a reminder that the City of Lewiston had a chance to be the first to allow a casino but the city government chose not to. We had a chance but didn't have the vision or courage needed to be the first.

 's picture

voters got it right

Not sure exactly how "Rotten deal" is funded, but I listened to Mr O'neill speak as the count was winding down last night, he has it right. I believe Mainers have decided that the hands off attitude that this season's legislature has taken about the casino gambling issue is off base. With one casino approved and 3 more on the ballot Maine government opted to wash their hands of the issue. In doing so they ignored the facts that have been proved across the country, The gambling issue is an asset, it is owned by all citizens of the state, and elected officials have an obligation to treat it as such. A tightly regulated process of sighting casions, strict licensing, and opening the issuance to operators up by bid is the way to go. Other states have reaped the benefits, in opening the state to a number of casino "boats" Indiana got billions in upfront money and promised revenue to fix schools, roads, street scapes, government buidlings, and create jobs outside of the casino. Those improvements will long benefit the state, even if the casinos close down. We got no such benefit, and no guarantee from these projects. Now is time for us to hold our state's feet to the fire.
Do not give the gambling asset away!!!!

David  Cote's picture

Real professional reaction

And it's this type of reaction that leads me to believe the voters got this one right. I voted no on it because it's simply too much too soon. The Oxford casino isn't even finished yet and here were not one, but two questions on the ballot seeking to open more casinos in the state. I'd like to see how the Oxford casino does for a year or two before I entertain thoughts of constructing another. Plus, the logistics of building one in downtown Lewiston are terrible. There is no easy access to the designated location and the general landscape that surrounds the area is much more conducive to stailber bussiness. And do you really want to build a casino in an area where twice a year there are thousands of kids enjoying what are supposed to be family festivals? There are alternatives to building a casino and if civic leaders weren't so short-sighted throwing their collective eggs in one basket instead of being pro-active and employing a little foresight and cleverness then they wouldn't have the need to throw hissy fits. Amd the last I checked, Gov. LePage had one vote to cast, like myself and everyone else who voted. Mayor Gilbert's comments were childish and out of bounds. Civic leaders of Lewiston... Come up with ideas the whole community can embrace. And stay away from flash-in-the-pan ideas. They are only band-aids to cover wounds to big to heal.

Mark Elliott's picture

I agree with you

I agree with you wholeheartedly David! Very childish reaction! But then again, Larry Gilbert could afford to behave in that manner right? After all, he's all done! I find it hard to believe that in Maine's second most populated city, they can not attract the business they need.......maybe, just maybe it was the leadership that failed Lewiston and NOT the voters!

The idea of a casino is to bring revenue from OUTSIDE the area. It is tourism. Some parts of this state depend on tourism and some do not and should not. Lewiston, with it's population, should NOT need to depend on tourism to pull them back up.

 's picture


Time to take Building #5 down. No more excuses, just take it down.

 's picture

Who will pay for it you?

Who'll pay to have it razed? You? Yes.

Lewiston is heavily in debt right now, all I see is their hand being forced to raise property taxes on everyone who owns homes and business to pay for it now that this casino thing fell through losing a guranteed 3.5 million a year in revenue and property taxes.

This was a huge mistake letting this fail.

Mark Elliott's picture

They didn't "let it

They didn't "let it fail".....the voters "took it down"...even in Lewiston!

 's picture

Didn't Lewiston residents

Didn't Lewiston residents vote yes more than no by about 1,000 votes? I thought so unless I heard wrong.

Mark Elliott's picture

I may be the one to have

I may be the one to have heard wrong, but let's face it. That isn't exactly a landslide in the state's second most populated city.



Mayor Gilbert's comments will be remembered next this goes to ballot. Pretty much sunk the ship.


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