Maine Legislature Mulls More Casinos

The Maine legislature appears likely to take up the issue of expanding gaming in the state. The two existing casinos Oxford Casino (l.) and Hollywood Casino Hotel & Raceway, are not amused.

Maine lawmakers this year will take up the issue of expanding on the two casinos that the state currently allows.

The legislators are reacting to requests by the Passamaquoddy Tribe, Scarborough Downs and veterans groups to expand on the gaming that is allowed.

The Passamaquoddy have sought to offer gaming for more than 20 years. It points out that Washington County, where it is located, is the state’s poorest. 

Maine’s existing casinos are the Hollywood Casino Hotel & Raceway in Bangor and Oxford Casino, which between them accounted for more than $1.1 billion in gambling last year.

Both oppose expanding gaming. They claim that the gaming market is already saturated and that more gaming would hurt their operations. They also note that voters have rejected expanded gaming in recent elections, including a proposal in 2003 to allow Scarborough Downs at deploy slot machines.

According to Clyde Barrow of the Center for Policy Analysis at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, a lobbyist for Oxford’s owner, Churchill Downs,  “There is simply no question that given the green light by state legislators and promoters, marginal operators will continue to join the casino arms race to the point of mutually assured destruction.”

However last week Sharon Terry, president of the racetrack said that her racetrack won’t survive much longer without the machines. The racetrack has lost 25 percent of its revenues since Oxford Casino opened two years ago. However, its development partner, Ocean Properties projects that a new casino would at least double the revenue the state collects from gaming.

The gaming proposals were introduced last year but lawmakers delayed action so that they could be studied by a commission, including studying a mechanism for accepting competitive bids for casino licenses. The commission included legislators, advocates for expanded gaming and representatives of the existing casinos.

The commission recommended against any gaming bills.