A new study about the prospects of gambling expansion in Maine lays out in specific detail the application and license fees the state should seek for a casino in southern Maine. It suggests how much a new operator should be required to invest in a facility, and how much the operator should be required to pay for each slot machine and table game. It predicts how much extra in tax revenue the state can be expected to receive in the first year of operation of a new casino.

The study, however, offers far less detail when analyzing what impact a new casino would have on Maine in some very important areas. Getting a more complete picture of just where the new revenue would come from, and how a new casino would cut into the region’s finite market for gambling, is crucial as a legislative committee begins to review its options.

The study, released late last month and now under review by the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, was completed by Atlantic City-based WhiteSand Gaming. It was commissioned by the committee for $110,000 to look into the economic feasibility of additional casinos in Maine, after a legislative task force failed at a similar effort last year.

WhiteSand recommends that the state set a five-year license fee for a southern Maine casino at $5 million, with an application fee of $250,000 as well as $100 for every slot machine and table game. The company also suggests that Maine require an initial investment of $250 million in a new facility, to be spent over a five-year period.

The license fee and initial investment requirement both represent a significant improvement over the current structure.

The base license fee for a casino in Maine now is a paltry $225,000. In 2013, that license allowed Hollywood Casino Bangor to take in more than $54 million in income and Oxford Casino more than $71 million. Clearly the license is worth more than the state is charging.

And mandating a certain level of initial investment would make sure an operator lives up to the grand promises that are often made with a casino. That’s been a problem in both Oxford and Bangor, where operators have fallen short of expectations raised in their campaigns for approval.

Also of benefit is the extra $13.8 million the study expects would flow into state coffers in the first year of operation for a new casino, even when considering a 20 percent “cannibalization factor” as gamblers forgo trips to Oxford in favor of the new facility.

But where will that money come from?

WhiteSand says a southern Maine casino would draw heavily from New Hampshire and Massachusetts, but there may soon be as many as four gambling facilities in Massachusetts, and perhaps some in New Hampshire as well.

That makes it less likely that a southern Maine casino would draw new tourists to the area. Instead, a new facility would depend on gamblers from Maine, as well as on tourists who are coming here anyway.

In either case, money would be taken out of the local economy. It is clear why that would be appealing to out-of-state casino operators, but it is anything but a sure bet for Maine.

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