When the question was whether Maine should expand slot machine gambling, we said no.

Gambling is a business that makes money at the expense of other forms of entertainment, and we thought Maine could find more productive forms of economic development.

Last fall, however, the voters disagreed and approved the Oxford County Casino referendum, paving the way to the biggest expansion of legal gambling the state has seen since the creation of Hollywood Slots in Bangor.

Arguments about jobs and state budget shortfalls proved too compelling to overcome in a state that was hit hard by the national recession.

Now that the voters have spoken, the Legislature should put opinions about gambling and regional preferences aside and carry out the voters’ intent in the way that would do the most good for the whole state.

That means the question is no longer “if” but “where,” and the best way to answer it is by letting the marketplace dictate the best location of gambling facilities.


We opposed the Biddeford racino referendum last fall, but the voters of Biddeford did not. And since the statewide electorate approved the expansion of gambling in Oxford, we don’t see how any argument presented in that campaign would not also apply with this proposal.

The same is true for a proposed tribal racino in Washington County, which has the near-unanimous support of its community.

Jobs and the economy were the driving force in the state referendum campaign, and there is no reason to believe that most voters were only interested in Oxford County jobs.

A job is a job, and Maine collects taxes from people working in every one of our 16 counties. Washington County is even more economically depressed than Oxford and is just as deserving of a shot in the arm.

A selling point for the Oxford Casino was that it would capture the dollars that leave the state in the wallets of Mainers who gamble in Connecticut or beyond. Another was that it would attract the money from out-of- state gamblers.

The Biddeford location would be more effective on both fronts. Calais is close to the major population centers of New Brunswick and also could be an attractive draw for Canadians looking to gamble.


It would be unlikely that an Oxford — and only Oxford — casino would do a better job of keeping gambling money in state or attracting out-of-state revenue than the two proposed racinos.

The racinos have one other advantage over the Oxford plan: In addition to the creation of jobs on site, the racinos would help save jobs in the harness racing industry, which has a great tradition in Maine.

Interestingly, the opposition to adding the two racinos comes less from anti-gambling forces than from the Oxford and Bangor gaming operations that want to maintain monopoly status.

The state, however, should not be in the business of protecting one competitor against another.

The opponents want to force this issue back out to the voters, but that’s not necessary.

The voters said in November that they supported expanding legal gambling in Maine, and it’s up to the Legislature should now show some leadership and do what it can to make sure all Mainers receive the maximum benefit from this reality.

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