On Feb. 12, University of Maine Professor Todd Gabe released his economic projections for a casino in Oxford County. He estimated $89 million to $99 million could be generated by the presence of gambling in the River Valley.

If true, these figures indicate gambling is not economic development – it is economic transformation. Yet Gabe is quiet on the details, as he should be.

The details of how this potential is realized belongs to Seth Carey and Evergreen Mountain Enterprises.

Gabe’s figures and the likelihood of a November referendum on the casino give Evergreen a foundation as reality instead of concept. On Jan 15, the Secretary of State’s office was given 76,000 signatures toward the 55,000 needed for petition certification. The deadline for certification is Feb. 27.

The overflow of signatures collected by Evergreen Mountain’s gatherers means certification is probably assured.

Which means it’s time to consider this casino plan as real as the proposals for Sanford, Bangor and Calais, and give it a great deal of scrutiny. There are many questions Carey and Evergreen must now be ready to answer.

Gabe cited a primary one: It’s impossible to determine whether casino revenue will come from new sources, such as tourists and visitors, or be diverted from spending that’s already occurring.

This point needs clarification from Evergreen Mountain, which bills the casino as a tourist attraction. Gambling is an unproven tourist draw in Maine; Evergreen Mountain must show strategy and evidence it would have a different result. A casino just for Western Maine is not what they are promising.

Details on casino management and consultants must also be fully disclosed; Gabe’s projection has bestowed upon Evergreen Mountain stewardship of potentially a $90 million business. This will require outside help.

Evergreen has detailed its plans for its profits – 39 percent would fund public services, such as repaying college loans, environmental initiatives, property conservation, road improvements, raising the minimum wage, prescription drug assistance, and regional partnerships among local governments.

Yet Evergreen also promises to use the remaining 61 percent to help build a four-season outdoor resort and casino, which would hosts culinary classes, an orchard, winery, microbrewery, restaurants, boutiques, “European-style” spas and gallery space for Maine artisans. A detailed business plan must be released.

There is the casino/resort itself, as well, which Evergreen wants to build by the principles of sustainable, green construction. Yet a site, so far, is unknown. Evergreen must say soon where it will build, and when.

And then there’s the most important question: Who is paying for it all? Gambling interests have considerable political power in Maine; whoever holds the note on Evergreen Mountain will assume powerful influence.

Gabe’s projections put Maine’s gaming revenue potential at approximately $265 million; if approved, Evergreen Mountain could account for half that revenue alone.

With great cost comes great responsibility. The study by Gabe has outlined the stakes of Evegreen’s game.

Now, it’s time they show their cards.


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