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Councilors, officials urge support for casino

The Lewiston City Council endorsed a resolution on October 4 calling upon Maine voters to support Question 3 on the statewide November ballot, which would allow a casino on the Bates Mill No. 5 property in Lewiston.

“We are thankful for the vocal support of the Lewiston City Council,” said Ron Chicoine, MD, a local physician and investor in Great Falls Entertainment, LLC, which was formed to get a casino in Lewiston.

Chicoine’s comments followed the Lewiston City Council’s endorsement. “This project has moved beyond a local investment group, and we are happy to see the local community embrace it as their own,” he said.

Council President Steve Morgan was unable to attend the October 4 meeting, but sent a letter of support for the casino. During the City Council workshop that night, City Administrator Edward A. Barrett provided information on the impact of such a facility on the City of Lewiston. It was noted that in June 2010, Lewiston voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot question authorizing a casino at the Bates site.

The city has since entered into an option agreement with Great Falls Entertainment, LLC, and the project will move forward if approved on the November statewide ballot.

The proposed Lewiston casino proposal also got a real boost on Tuesday, as Lewiston and Auburn community and business leaders met with casino representatives to announce their support for a statewide ballot question that would allow a casino on the abandoned Bates Mill No. 5 site in Lewiston.

The gathering of supporters took place at at Pedro O’Hara’s restaurant at 134 Main Street, across from Mill No. 5.

Gilbert noted that if the November 8 election results in the passage of Question 3, Lewiston and Auburn would benefit from economic development, jobs and community development. Multiple federal and local agencies also voiced support in favor of a casino being built at one of Lewiston-Auburn’s most recognizable landmarks in Downtown Lewiston.

In addition to Gilbert, others who were scheduled to show their support were Lewiston City Council President Steve Morgan, Lewiston City Councilors Larry Poulin and Mark Cayer, Auburn Councilor-at-Large Belinda Gerry, Sabattus Selectman Scott Lansley, State Reps. Bruce Bickford and Brian Bolduc, Pedro O’Hara’s co-owner Troy Kavanaugh and Simones Hot Dogs owner Jimmy Simones.

Along with Mayor Gilbert, speakers included Lewiston Casino Committee Treasurer William Welch, State Rep. Bruce Bickford and Ron Chicoine.

Lewiston officials say the city would clearly benefit from a casino, citing property tax revenues, the creation of permanent employment opportunities, the creation of temporary construction jobs, the potential redevelopment of the Mill No. 5 property and a jump-start to the city’s efforts to develop Lewiston’s Riverfront Island area. In addition, as the referendum question is currently proposed, the city’s county tax amount would be offset due to some casino revenues going to Androscoggin County.

During the City Council workshop on October 4, Barrett outlined numerous direct and indirect ways the city will benefit from the casino, including gaming revenues. In a prepared memo to the City Council, he noted that based on estimates of what gaming revenues have meant for Bangor. “The city can anticipate receiving gaming revenues in a range from $921,000 to $1,843,000 per year to be used for a variety of purposes.”

Those purposes could include funding for existing joint agencies, assistance with the implementation costs of new joint ventures, enhanced city grant and loan programs to assist in the rehabilitation and reuse of existing structures, streetscape improvements or other downtown infrastructure needs, and grants and loans for residents/commercial property owners transitioning to renewable energy sources.

Funding for the Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council could also reduce the direct funding the Twin Cities now provide to that entity. The city would also be eligible to receive funding for projects that it is mandated to undertake to address combined sewer overflows and non-point source storm water impacts.


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