Amid all the negative talk of casino expansion in the United States, and the talk of saturation in certain areas – such as the northeast – there seems to be a little casino making a difference.
Yes, in Oxford, Maine, the Oxford Casino is doing well – very well. The surrounding area businesses are also doing well. While surrounding towns in Oxford Hills are still struggling to climb out of the hole left from the Great Recession of 2008, Oxford has seen an uptick in economic development for a few years now. “When we went into the recession, a lot of towns had to raise mill rates or cut services,” Oxford Town Manager Michael Chammings said. “We pretty much kept our tax rate flat and kept the same services.”
This doesn’t mean that all surrounding businesses and even towns are feeling the economic surge. Small businesses are still struggling as in most of New England, but it was forward-thinking that landed Oxford its casino in 2012. Chammings said. “It has, for the most part, been the center of economic growth for the town.”
Oxford isn’t at the point that businesses are rushing to relocate, but MGA Cast Stone on Route 26 in Oxford is one of a number of businesses that has seen positive economic growth since setting up shop in town.
“Obviously, it helped us economically,” Chammings said. “I consider it the ‘anchor store in a mall’ kind of deal. We knew we were going to have accelerated growth. We didn’t expect it to be a boom growth, which is good because we can handle it.” He went on to point out that the casino is in a Tax Increment Financing district, which is a tax shelter. The casino taxes pay for the town’s infrastructure, mainly the sewer and water systems. This includes the $24 million wastewater treatment facility and the expanded sewer lines being installed along Route 26. “The sewer and water on (Route) 26 are what’s allowing for these other businesses to come in,” Chammings said. He pointed out that the Hampton Inn has an opening date that coincides with the Oxford wastewater treatment facility’s launch, anticipated for next spring. This saves the hotel millions of dollars by not having to build its own treatment facility, he said.
So, how else has the addition of a casino helped the town of Oxford?
1) Prospects of a new hotel
2) More dining – the opening of Applebee’s, and now Aroma Joe’s in Oxford as a direct result of the casino. The coffee shop and drive-thru should be open this month. More restaurants seem interested, with another restaurant interested in coming in that will be adjacent to the Hampton Inn hotel
3) Secondary jobs and businesses will likely come in to be in the service center of Oxford, taking care of those new businesses.
4) A ripple effect – instead of driving to Lewiston or Auburn for dinner, people will take advantage of what Oxford’s new businesses, dining and retail, have to offer.
A perfect example of this ripple effect can be seen MGA Cast Stone opened its doors in Oxford in 2010, moving 30 miles north from New Gloucesterwith. When MGA Cast Stone arrived in Oxford, the company had six employees. Within the first 16 months of operations, the number of employees had grown to 26. Now, that number hovers around 50.
So, the future looks bright in Oxford. They’ve done their homework, they’ve started their own stimulus, and it all started with a little casino that could. Bravo Oxford, Maine. Bravo, Oxford Casino.