LEWISTON — Signature-gathering efforts to put a Bates Mill No. 5 purchase-option agreement before voters passed the halfway mark Wednesday.

City Clerk Kathy Montejo said backers of a proposed Lewiston casino had collected signatures from 485 registered Lewiston voters. The effort needs 860 valid signatures and the group has until Feb. 22 to finish.

“We’re in a really good place,” said Stavros Mendros, one of the partners and backers of Great Falls Casino LLC. “We’ve had people approach us, asking us to gather signatures at their businesses. They said they’re not gamblers, but they think this is a good idea for Lewiston.”

Mendros, anesthesiologist Dr. Ron Chicoine, and three unnamed investors are backing the effort to take over the Bates Mill No. 5 property and build a casino. The property is at the intersection of Main and Canal streets.

The investors’ plan would require two votes: a local vote to approve the sale of Bates Mill No. 5 property and a statewide vote to allow gambling there.

Mendros said his group had collected more than 1,000 signatures for the Lewiston vote and was still working.

“We realize that many of them won’t be valid,” he said. “We have people that think they’re registered to vote, or who have moved since the last election. So we’re not done, and we know that. But we have plenty of time left.”

He doesn’t expect to begin gathering signatures for the statewide 2011 vote until April.

According to the deal, Great Falls Casino LLC would pay the city
$10,000 within 30 days after Lewiston voters approve the purchase-option
agreement.

Great Falls Casino LLC would keep the option to purchase until Dec.
31, 2011. If Maine voters approve the casino plan at the polls in
November 2011, the company would be able to complete the sale. If
voters turn down the casino, the company would have the right to outbid other
competing uses for another 90 days.

According to the petition for the June 2010 ballot question, the casino
would give 8.6 percent of all revenues to local government. Lewiston
would get 2.5 percent — a half-percent for unspecified
infrastructure improvements and 2 percent for the General Fund. Auburn
and Androscoggin County would each get 1 percent of the revenues, with
the towns of Sabattus, Lisbon and Greene sharing another half-percent.

Efforts to clean Maine rivers would get another 3 percent, a downtown Lewiston renovation fund and alternative energy efforts each would get 0.3 percent.

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