AUGUSTA – As proposals for expansions of gambling poured into the Legislature this session, many questioned what kind of impact Bangor racino Hollywood Slots has had on the community and the economy.

These proposals – some passing and some flopping – came in despite a moratorium imposed by the state’s Gambling Control Board advising against expansions in gambling, at least until Hollywood Slots’ impact could be measured.

The board has recently learned, however, that measuring this impact will cost it $35,000, funds that likely won’t become available until 2010.

At the board’s monthly meeting Wednesday, it deliberated leaving the moratorium in place. It will vote on the matter next month.

If it does take two years to get the study done, board member Cushing Samp said, “I can’t continue to support the moratorium.”

In the meantime, Executive Director Robert Welch has been tasked to look outside the board’s budget for funds for the study, which would be conducted by the University of Massachusetts/Dartmouth, Welch said.

After the meeting, however, he said he was doubtful that he could find the money from outside sources.

The Gambling Control Board was established by Gov. John Baldacci in 2005 to oversee the Bangor facility. It passed the moratorium a year ago.

Currently, the only study information it has gathered is an independent report from a local professor, indicating increased traffic to Bangor area hotels and restaurants, Welch said Wednesday.

Board member Peter Danton, however, questioned the relevancy of the study, noting that when the new Hollywood Slots facility opens next year it will include a hotel and a restaurant.

“We need to figure out, in the state of Maine, where we’re going with gambling,” Danton said. “The Legislature hasn’t seen a gambling bill they don’t like.”

The board is advisory, however, and the nonbinding moratorium legally has no teeth.

While it was in place this session, about 15 bills to expand gambling in the state came before the Legislature. Six passed.

Five of those bills – two of which were passed – were sponsored by Rep. John Patrick, D-Rumford, House chairman of the Legal and Veterans Affairs Committee, which has jurisdiction over the gambling issues. Neither Patrick nor Senate chairwoman Lisa Marrache could be reached for comment Wednesday.

Bills to establish gaming facilities in York and Oxford counties failed. A bill to create 400 slots on Indian Island was held over. A bill to establish a tribal racino in Washington County passed in the Legislature, but was vetoed by the governor. Sparked by a citizen initiative, it will go on the statewide ballot in November.

Other bills seeking to amend the beano laws and allow nonprofits to conduct tournament games passed.


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