LEWISTON – Oxford County casino backers unveiled an economic impact study Wednesday showing their $184 million project would create 907 jobs.

Ninety-seven percent of the permanent work force would be Mainers from Oxford County and the surrounding counties, said Dean Harrold, president of Olympia Gaming. The Las Vegas-based casino and resort company is behind the casino proposal going to voters on Nov. 4.

Harrold spoke to reporters during a news conference at Falcon Performance Footwear on Cedar Street. The appearance at Falcon, maker of high-performance boots for firefighters, was meant to shed light on the region’s well-honed work force, said Falcon co-owner Neil Hanley.

He said jobs and economic development are badly needed in Oxford County. His family founded Falcon in 1963, drawn by the region’s available and quality work force, he said.

“We are here 45 years later as a testimony to that,” Hanley said. “Oxford County desperately needs more economic opportunity. The quality of the workforce there is impeccable. I know; I’m a resident, so we are hopeful this initiative will pass.”

It was the second straight day that casino proponents pushed jobs, saying casino construction and operations would bolster Maine’s economy.

Casino supporters hired Clyde Barrow, director of the Center for Policy Analysis at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth, to produce the impact study, billed by them as an independent analysis. Barrow put the number of casino-related jobs, including construction and support positions, at more than 1,200.

He said he did not believe the nation’s economy – including recent Wall Street concerns that the U.S. gambling industry was nearing a saturation point – would substantially affect the project, if it’s approved by voters.

“Our estimate is actually that there is about $1.5 billion in unmet gaming demand in just the six-state New England region,” Barrow said.

He added, however, “There is no question that casinos have partly seen revenue declines as a result of the economy turning bad just like any other consumer industry that relies on discretionary spending.”

Barrow said as new states enter the casino market they are successful at reclaiming money that was being spent in other states. “Our estimate is you would probably recapture a substantial amount of the $34 million a year that is already leaving Maine right now, every year, to the state of Connecticut.”

Harrold said his company would be able to fund the Maine project despite turmoil in financial markets.

“We can afford this,” Harrold said.

The anti-casino group CasinosNo! was quick to pan Barrow’s 58-page study.

“Although Barrow talks at length about the economic impacts of casinos, he is not an economist,” said Dennis Bailey, spokesman for CasinosNo!

Bailey said Barrow studied casino gambling elsewhere in New England and his conclusions always favor the industry.

Pat LaMarche, the casino campaign spokeswoman, said proponents hoped to announce a site proposal for the resort on Thursday, but that deal was still in the works. The campaign’s top priority is to give Maine voters a location before Election Day, she said.


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