Gambling on an ill-conceived casino proposal

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Building a casino in Oxford County – and falsely building up the hopes of the people who live in and near the River Valley – is a bad idea. Even if it were a good idea, Seth Carey is not the guy to pull this off.

Years ago, despite widespread local support for the jobs and revenue it might produce, a high-stakes bingo parlor never gained traction in nearby Albany Township.

More recently, a stupendously well-funded and well-connected effort to construct a full-scale casino in southern Maine – despite tremendous support for its associated jobs and revenue – also failed.

The racino in Bangor succeeded only because Maine’s horsemen and women were behind the effort, and only because it was confined to a site where gambling, as in off-track betting, was already present.

Carey, a hothead who has said publicly he believes Rumford is a blighted haven for welfare recipients, is not that well-funded nor well-connected. This project, as thinly organized as it is, cannot succeed.

Last month, he allegedly threatened Mexico Town Manager John Madigan, who then called police. Meanwhile, Mexico selectmen, because of Carey’s previous appearances and rude behavior at public meetings, barred him from speaking.

More importantly, perhaps, Carey and his unnamed supporters face a casino-hostile Legislature and anti-gambling voter base in southern Maine. If this were a project confined to casino-friendly Rumford and requiring only Rumford voters’ approval, it might have a chance. But, that’s not the reality. This scheme, with its current organization, cannot raise a profile strong enough to dominate the existing “no casino” sensibility in Maine.

In pitching his idea, Carey and his Rumford-based supporters have been unfair to their hometown.

The group, in describing themselves and their mission, call Rumford “one of the more blighted communities in Maine.” That is just not accurate. True blight is much farther north.

Rumford is a town born of the paper mill and long dependent on it, but citizens have recognized that dependence and have achieved recent successes in diversifying its economy. The River Valley Growth Council is one of the busiest in the state, and its leaders are committed to improving Rumford’s economic future.

What the town also has going for it is its location.

Rumford is located in a fantastically beautiful region of Maine, a true outdoor recreationist’s dream. If the Evergreen Mountain Resort Casino group is really interested in establishing a future of clean, non-polluting tourism, cooping folks up inside a casino is not the answer. The answer is in the mountains and along the rivers of western Maine.

Carey, who said last week he is not ready to speak to the press and not prepared to go public with his plans, despite having filed articles of organization with the Secretary of State’s Office last month listing himself as the sole manager of the company, has officially launched a quest to gather 40,000 signatures to get the casino question on some future ballot.

Not to put too simple a stamp on this, but Carey’s scheme is doomed to fail. That does not serve Oxford County well.

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