Players gambled $1.2 billion on slot machines at Maine’s two casinos last year, according to a Maine Gambling Control Board annual report.

At Oxford Casino in Oxford, the house earned $68.7 million and at Hollywood Casino in Bangor, $41.6 million in 2017.

Both casinos appeared to have entered 2018 with different strategies: Oxford added 97 slot machines and Bangor unplugged 39.

Oxford has slowly chipped away at Hollywood’s bottom line since the Oxford Casino opened in June 2012.

With the recent completion of its 107-room, $25 million hotel, spokeswoman Jane McClay Hoyt said Oxford Casino also added 3,000 additional square feet of casino space.

“Oxford Casino Hotel’s parent company, Churchill Downs Inc., is very happy with their investment in Maine and the Oxford community,” Hoyt said. “Oxford Casino experienced exceptional growth since opening and making the additional capital investment into our slot products was an easy decision, given growing demand.”

The industry trend, she said, is toward lower denomination games, so Oxford added new penny games. 

According to Maine Gambling Control Board figures, slot machine players wagered $796.6 million last year at Oxford Casino, up $62 million from the year before.

That casino started 2017 with 871 machines. It’s currently at 968.

Players wagered $408.4 million on slots at Hollywood Casino, down $28 million from the year before.

For most of the year, that casino had between 765 and 778 machines. It’s currently at 729.

A call to Hollywood Casino on Thursday wasn’t returned.

Between wagers on slots and the less popular table games, the state collected $54.5 million in gaming taxes from both casinos to distribute to more than a dozen groups, outlined by statute. 

The Department of Education received the most, $18.9 million for grades K-12 schools, last year. Another $6.4 million went into the state’s General Fund, $3.3 million to the University of Maine System and $4.4 million to harness racing purses.

Oxford Town Manager Butch Asselin said that the town’s $1.7 million from the casino distribution helps offset its $5 million to $6 million budget.

He said the community and casino have continued to have a good working relationship. “We regard them as an asset to the town.”

Milton Champion, executive director of the Maine Department of Public Safety’s Gambling Control Unit, said last year saw a new process of formally documenting and investigating patron complaints at the casinos.

Last year, they received 10 complaints. So far this year, four.

“Most of the time, it’s really a misunderstanding of the rules of the game or a particular slot machine, how it pays out,” Champion said. “I would say 9.9 out of 10 cases are always resolved.”

He said his unit is at work on a regional self-exclusion program with several other states that’s still being finalized.

In 2017, 117 people flagged themselves for self-exclusion, banning themselves from entering casinos here.

Up this summer for Champion’s unit: Shaping rules and regulations around fantasy sports contests in Maine.

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The casino started 2018 with 100 more slot machines than it had in January 2017. (Sun Journal file photo)


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