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Maine gaming becoming $7 million debate

Oct 14, 2003 3:31 AM

Whether gaming is or isn’t in Maine’s future, the present election discussion is drawing enormous campaign revenue for the state.

The Bangor Daily News reports that close a $7 million has been emptied from the campaign coffers from the support groups both for and against proposed Indian casinos. That figure exceeds the $6 million spent in 1997 with still four weeks left before Election Day.

On Nov. 4 voters will decide whether to allow several Indian tribes to open a $650 million casino in Sanford that could enable the state to gain $100 million each year from the deal. The tribes reportedly would pay the state 25 percent of the slot machine revenue from the facility.

Recent polls showed the race tightening to a dead heat after early polls showed the pro-casino movement leading by nearly 20 percentage points.

Peace pipe for Arnold?

There are signs that there could be a thaw in the rhetoric that has the California Indian tribes and in-coming Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on opposite sides of the gambling issue.

"As soon as I get into office I will sit down with the Indian gaming tribes and start working together," Schwarzenegger said. "We are in a financial crisis now and I want them to participate."

The state’s 53 Indian casinos are believed to be making more than $5 billion a year, according to a report in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Borgata passes 500,000

The new Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, meanwhile, has surpassed 500,000 names in its customer database, according to a report in The News of Atlantic City.

Deutsche Bank Securities compiled the figures in a 14-page document released two days after an investor field trip to Atlantic City. Deutsche Bank analyst Marc Falcone said he expects the September industry revenue report due out next week to show a decline from the year-earlier win of $371 million, even with Borgata’s results.

Casino executives told Falcone that October is off to a better start, but that some resorts are boosting incentives to stem the flow of customers to Borgata during the seasonal slowdown. Casinos fear a market-share war that could crimp fourth-quarter profits and lead to more layoffs.

B’more eats up slots

The Maryland Restaurant Association now supports slots machines as the best way to ease the state’s growing budget deficit.

Marcia Harris, president of the Association, said the group reversed its position after a survey of 3,000 members showed that 63 percent favored some form of gambling in Maryland.

The Association was one of only a few groups to oppose Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s proposal during the last legislative session to allow Wal-Mart-sized slots casinos at four horse racing tracks.

ALSO: Gambling revenues at Illinois riverboats continue to slide since the implementation of a July 1 state tax increase.