A new era in gambling in Maine will start bright and early Friday for anyone who wants to play a few hands of blackjack or poker at 8 a.m.

That’s when Hollywood Casino in Bangor will open its table games: six blackjack tables, a roulette table and seven poker tables.

Voters in Penobscot County approved the expansion beyond slot machines in November, allowing Hollywood Slots to become Hollywood Casino and start table games before the opening of the Oxford Casino. That casino is under construction and expected to open in May or June.

“It’s the new phase,” said Dan Cashman, a spokesman for Hollywood Casino. “It’s more of a complete gaming experience.”

Cashman said Penn National Gaming, which owns and operates the casino, expects that gross revenue — the total amount wagered — and net revenue — Penn National Gaming’s take — will both increase 10 to 15 percent because of the table games.

Gamblers wagered nearly $670 million at Hollywood Slots last year, and Penn National Gaming’s take was nearly $60 million.

Cashman said a few of the 1,000 slot machines were removed to make room for the table games, but the expectation is that more gamblers will patronize the casino. He said some gamblers prefer table games to slots because table games require a certain amount of skill or strategy. Slot machines are programmed to pay out a certain amount of the money wagered at random times.

Cashman said the table games are creating 89 new full- and part-time jobs, and will generate $4 million in salaries and benefits. He said he believes those jobs were part of the reason voters approved the new games.

Since the referendum on Nov. 8, Penn National Gaming has been installing the tables and hiring and training dealers, he said.

Hollywood Casino’s new offerings also represent a new era for the Maine Gambling Control Board.

“We’re kind of curious to see how they’re going to pan out,” said Patrick Fleming, executive director of the board.

Fleming said the board has been able to monitor the operation of the slot machines remotely, but with table games, it will have to have inspectors on-site.

Fleming said money to cover start-up costs for the inspectors will be in the supplemental budget the Legislature takes up this month. He said the plan is to have inspectors at the casinos whenever table games are operating, which will be 24 hours a day at the Oxford Casino.

A call to Black Bear Development, which is building that casino, was not returned Tuesday.

The Gambling Control Board collects 1 percent of the gross amount wagered on slot machines at Hollywood Casino to cover the board’s expenses, and the state takes 39 percent of the net. Of that, 1 percent goes to Bangor as the host city and the rest is distributed to a variety of programs, such as agricultural fairs, purses for harness racetracks, the Healthy Maine program and college scholarships.

The tax on table games will be 16 percent, Fleming said. The state’s share will be smaller than it is for slots because table games have no guaranteed profit for the casino, as slot machines do.

Fleming said he agrees with Cashman that the table games are likely to attract players who weren’t interested in slot machines. “It opens up a different gambling option for the players,” he said.

Hollywood Casino is kicking off the new operation with a couple of previews, Cashman said. On Tuesday night, local officials and business leaders were invited to check out the table games, although no money changed hands.

Cashman said a preview also will be held Thursday night, with admission fees charged and the money going to Special Olympics. People who attend won’t be able to bet, although prizes will be awarded in a blackjack tournament, Cashman said.

John Osborne, general manager of Hollywood Casino, said in a prepared statement late Tuesday, “This week marks the most exciting week for Hollywood Casino since we moved into our permanent gaming facility almost four years ago. … Bangor and eastern Maine have a tremendous energy to them right now and we are happy to be a part of that mix.”

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