LEWISTON — If the location can’t convince voters to support a downtown Lewiston casino, backers are hoping the money will.
“I think we have the right plan, when it comes down to it,” said Stavros Mendros, a member of Great Falls Recreation and Redevelopment LLC, the group that wants to bring a casino to Lewiston.
“Lewiston-Auburn regularly supported casinos and those were in different places,” Mendros said. “I think they’ll support it here. And I think for the rest of the state, putting it in Lewiston makes sense.”
Stavros and his partners — local anesthesiologist Ron Chicoine, Lewiston resident Peter Robinson and New Hampshire anesthesiologist Tim Poutre and his wife, Wendy Chicoine-Poutre — face two hurdles in their effort to get the casino built. First, local residents must vote June 8 to give the group an option to buy the Bates Mill No. 5 building and property.
If Lewiston voters approve, the group will seek statewide support for a casino at the polls in November 2011.
Mendros said he was confident Lewiston voters would support the sale agreement, saying they’re not the kind to chase away the opportunity for economic development.
“In fact, they’re just the opposite,” he said. “They want it to happen.”
On a statewide level, Mendros said placing the casino in Lewiston should make sense to voters. It’s redeveloping an area, not building in undeveloped space.
“We have the infrastructure in place,” he said. “We’re not developing green space, putting in something new in green space. We’re making use of brown space, and that make sense.”
The group also hopes the way they divide up their profits will convince voters. According to language the group has submitted to the Maine Secretary of State’s Office and the group’s revenue estimates, it would return between $21 million and $30 million to state, regional and local governments and efforts 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.
Another $4.1 million would go to regional efforts — cleaning the Androscoggin River, promoting rail to Bethel and building a Brunswick-to-Lewiston bike path.
An estimated $21 million would go to other efforts across the state. Those include economic development projects such as an east-west highway, redeveloping downtowns, increasing rail service across the state and upgrading Maine’s ports and fisheries. Some money would go to the casino’s competitors: beano organizers up to 50 miles from the casino would split $273,000 to increase their prizes; harness-racing purses across the state would share another $273,000 each year.
College programs would benefit, too, receiving an estimated $3 million per year in new revenues. Casino supporter Ron Chicoine said part of that proposal is to give about $547,000 to Maine colleges and community colleges for capital improvements each year.
“That’s something one school can use to build an auditorium one year, then another school has an opportunity the next year,” Chicoine said.
Partner Poutre said he favored setting aside $547,000 for college grants and scholarships.
Mendros said $547,000 would go to help pay for home-based care for seniors and another $273,000 per year would go to the Meals on Wheels program.
“Typically, seniors are one of the bigger users of casinos,” Mendros said. “This is a way to give some of that back.”
The casino also would pay Lewiston between $2 million and $3 million a year in property taxes.
The group submitted the language for the state referendum to the Secretary of State’s Office for approval. The state should finish reviewing the language next week and Mendros’ group could begin collecting signatures in June. They need to collect about 55,087 signatures to get the measure on the November 2011 ballot.
If Lewiston voters approve the proposal at the polls on June 8, the group will pay the city $150,000 in several installments through December 2011 for a purchase option on the property.
According to the agreement, the group’s first $10,000 payment would be due by July 8. A second $10,000 payment would be due Feb. 28, 2011, and a $30,000 payment would be due July 31, 2011. A final $100,000 payment would be due on Dec. 31, 2011 — two months after the matter goes before voters at a statewide referendum.
If state voters say yes at the polls in November 2011, the casino group would buy the land from the city for a fair market price and begin developing a casino.
Casino revenue breakdowns, according to state ballot draft
2 percent: City of Lewiston general fund
1 percent: City of Auburn
1 percent: Androscoggin County
1 percent: Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council
0.5 percent: Shared by Lewiston-Auburn for joint services
0.5 percent: Shared by Lisbon, Sabattus & Greene
0.5 percent: Lewiston infrastructure
3 percent: Androscoggin River cleanup
2 percent: Passenger rail from Auburn to Bethel
0.5 percent: Fund a riverside path from Lewiston to Brunswick
3 percent: Development of east-west highway
3 percent: Increase rail service in Maine
3 percent: Split evenly among other counties
3 percent: Upgrades for Maine’s ports and fisheries
3 percent: Energy independence and efficiency investment
3 percent: Downtown redevelopment statewide
1 percent: Charitable nonprofits and veterans groups
1 percent: Fund for home-based care for Maine seniors
1 percent: Agricultural fair support
1 percent: Capital improvements at Maine colleges
1 percent: Maine Scholars Program
1 percent: Maine technical institutes
1 percent: Maine Office of Tourism
1 percent: Finance Authority of Maine for state grant programs
0.5 percent: Meals on Wheels
0.5 percent: Support for beano parlor winnings
0.5 percent: Harness-racing purses
0.5 percent: Humane Society
Source: Great Falls Recreation and Redevelopment LLC