Things looked so rosy in Maine’s Gaming industry two years ago. Massachusetts was still voting on whether or not to have casinos and Oxford & Hollywood seemed to be doing quite well. The surrounding communities of Oxford & Bangor were pleased with the expanding revenue.
So, a $150,000 report commissioned last year by the Legislature, concluded that Maine has room for more casinos and provided a blueprint for establishing a competitive bidding process for granting licenses, and gave new hope to those who wanted more – which did not include Hollywood Casino or Oxford Casino. This new hope definitely caught the attention of Henry John Bear, a Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians representative to the Maine Legislature, proposed a bill that would allow his tribe to open a casino in Aroostook County. He commented that now they have bigger chance for success than ever.
But Clyde Barrow, former director of the Center for Policy Analysis at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, pointed to a study that said Oxford “cannibalized” about $11.9 million or 19 percent of Hollywood’s net slot machine revenue in 2012 even though they’re two hour drive apart……..The plot thickens……..
Ten – yes 10 – separate gambling bills were sent to the Maine legislature for gambling expansion this month, including:
- One bill would overhaul how the state regulates gaming, and would include a competitive bidding process for casinos. Under the bill, two casino licenses would be offered in the northern part of the state and the other would be in the southern part of the state with specific requirements to win the casino license costing $350,000 per bid.
- Also, 46 percent of income from slot machines would have to be turned over to the state gambling board, and the money would be distributed to gambling help groups, public schools, public colleges and Native America groups.
- 16 percent of income from table games and harness racing tracks would be turned over to the state and would go to public education and the towns where the casinos are located.
- Another bill would allow veterans groups to own and operate slot machines
- Still, another bill would allow the Maliseets to operate a casino on tribal land in Aroostook County.
Remember, this is all after the legislative report from last year.
Since then, casino revenue has plateaued – even declining last quarter! Hollywood Casino is asking the city for a $36.8 million property valuation reduction, arguing the assessment of its gambling complex exceeds fair market value. This is not because Hollywood is making money hand over fist. “The gaming landscape in Maine has changed considerably since the time our property tax was first established,” said Jose Flores, general manager of the casino. “We’re asking that our property tax be revised to reflect the current reduction in our business volumes as a result of continued competitive pressures from Oxford Casino and general softness in the economy.” Another casino official said the abatement request stemmed from a reduction in customers and increased competition in the state’s gambling marketplace.
If approved, the requested property tax abatement would force the city to refund a total of $876,840 to the property-holding companies of Hollywood Casino Hotel & Raceway Bangor.
Gov. Paul LePage opposes the idea of adding another casino in southern Maine, saying it would have a negative impact on the state. I truly believe he is correct. I suggest they make the standing casinos more enjoyable, larger for more destination-like travelers.
Much like New Hampshire, now is NOT the time to join the party. Steady as she goes!
That’s all for now.