SANFORD (AP) – A coalition of labor and small businesses supporting a proposed casino was announced Thursday to counter what a casino backer described as Maine’s “elite” businesses like L.L. Bean.

Seventy-five businesses and the AFL-CIO are members of the coalition, said Erin Lehane, coordinator of the proposed $650 million casino project for the Passamaquoddy and Penobscot tribes.

She said the small businesses were a contrast to “elite” businesses like L.L. Bean and Tom’s of Maine, whose leaders oppose a casino.

Think About It, a political action group supporting the casino, organized the announcement at the former Seamlock Carpet Mill to underscore support for the casino by working people, Lehane said.

“We’re looking for the real people of Maine,” she said.

David Cabana of Cabana Auto Body, one of the small-business owners backing the casino, is lobbying other business owners and neighbors.

“I see businesses leaving Sanford and I’m not seeing anything else come in,” Cabana said. “Go to Sanford or Biddeford where (once) there were lots of mills, there’s nothing coming to replace them.”

The Passamaquoddy Tribe and Penobscot Nation have options on 300 acres of land in Sanford on which a casino could be built. But state voters will have the final say on a casino this November.

Maine AFL-CIO President Edward Gorham said he wasn’t involved in talks with the tribes, but the labor organization is throwing its weight behind the casino project because of jobs it would create.

“It’s an opportunity for good jobs in a clean industry that won’t go to Taiwan or China,” he said.

Dennis Bailey, a spokesman for Casinos No!, said he was surprised to see businesses supporting a casino, which he said would take jobs away from the state’s traditional employers.

“Casinos are job killers. They’re business killers,” Bailey said. “It just transfers wealth, money, from one pocket to another.”

Bailey also said he was disappointed to see businesses like L.L. Bean being denigrated. “To attack some of the businesses in Maine that have been creating jobs and economic development for decades is laughable,” he said.

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