Local Nonprofits Fear Impact of Casino

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March 11, 2011; Source: Sun Journal | Just as small groceries and retailers fear they'll lose money and customers when a big box store like Walmart comes to town, nonprofits that rely on gaming revenues have the same worry from casinos that encroach on their turf. That's why a Maine state senator wants to create a "relief fund" for nonprofits that can prove they lost money once a casino starts operating in late 2011 in the western Maine town of Oxford.

Maine voters approved the state's first casino that would allow table gaming, along with slot machines, last November. Sen. John Patrick said he was introducing his bill because of fears he's heard that the casino will cost the American Legion and Veteran of Foreign war posts bingo revenues used to support their operations.

It's not clear yet if the 2 percent for the relief fund would come from or be on top of the 46 percent of slot machine and 16 percent of table game income that the state already plans to collect for beneficiaries that include the Department of Education, Oxford County and the town of Oxford. As drafted, the bill would raise the state's take, but Patrick said that's not his intent. "I'll kill my own bill if it meant adding an extra 2 percent," said Patrick, claiming that the person who actually drafted the bill misunderstood his intentions.

An official with the casino's owner, Black Bear Entertainment, said he doubted local bingo operators would be hurt. People have their favorite games,” said the company's Community Development Director Scott Smith. “I wouldn't compare bingo to blackjack any day of the week.”—Bruce Trachtenberg