RUMFORD – A casino offers false hopes and creates more problems than it solves.

A casino would be a boon to Oxford County and Maine overall in the tourism and economic spinoff it would bring.

Those were the arguments presented in a debate on a proposed Oxford County casino held at Mountain Valley High School Wednesday night.

CasinosNo! spokesman Dennis Bailey and Yes on 2 for Maine spokeswoman Pat LaMarche sparred during the two-hour exchange in front of about 40 people. They cited statistics and frequently countered each other’s facts, which at times drew laughter from the crowd.

Las-Vegas based Olympia Gaming unveiled plans this month to build a $184 million resort casino complex on at least 40 acres along Route 26 in Oxford, if Mainers pass Question 2 on the ballot to allow it in Oxford County.

“Casinos offer no hope, just hopelessness,” Bailey said in his opening statement. “Their business plan is to get you in, sit you down and take all your money. People that go there lose and the community loses. Every time, over and over again. You can bring a casino in if you want, but if you think it will revive your community, it won’t.”

LaMarche acknowledged that the casino referendum bill has problems, but said the important part is that the problems would get corrected. Additionally, she said because it’s a citizen initiative, the governor couldn’t veto it.

Responding to a question, she said that if lawmakers change the bill after people vote it in, the governor could then veto the changed bill.

Bailey argued that because of such intangibles, people should vote no.

LaMarche said the bill was about recreation and personal choice.

“This is an opportunity for seasonal employees to get full-time work with benefits,” she said.

“I really am passionately excited and supportive of this,” she said. “Olympia took a look at our available job pool. They knew that they could get the employees. They knew they could get us back to work. They promised to hire 97 percent of the staff from Maine. I think that’s extremely exciting,” she said.

“We really need to start investing in Maine and maybe, with this investment and this start, we’ll start looking favorable to businesses, and businesses will realize that Maine does want to do business,” LaMarche said.

Bailey closed with a different tack.

“‘Hello. I’m from Las Vegas and I’m here to help you.’ Does that sound right to you? Uh, you know, I don’t think they’re here to help Maine’s economy, to help Maine workers, to help Maine people. They’re here to pick our pockets. That’s what casinos do,” he said.

“These things are not economic development. They’re economic cannibalism. They take from the local economy and they don’t give back. They will take money out of the economy and not put it back in. That’s the track record of these casinos.

“But even if you don’t want to believe that, if you don’t want to gamble or think I’m using fear tactics like the other side is trying to say, look at the bill. Read the bill and ask yourself, is this what you want to see become law? Is this what you think is best for the state of Maine?”

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