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Lewiston casino proponent responds to critics

By Peter Robinson

Peter Robinson is a partner in Great Falls Recreation and Redevelopment LLC, which is proposing the Lewiston casino initiative.

The people of this community have been misinformed about a number of things concerning our casino proposal, and I am writing to set the record straight.

This is a response to Lewiston School Committee Chairperson Jim Handy (“School committee chair questions plan for temporary casino,” TCT, Oct. 20, 2011, page 1):

On Tuesday, October 18, I attended the Lewiston City Council meeting and made it quite clear that there never have been any “secret plans” to build a temporary facility and that, furthermore, our agreement with the city does not give us a right to do that. I reiterated that the location has to be at Bates Mill No. 5 or I would oppose it.

I also called Handy that day and left a message with him to call me if he had any questions about any matters concerning the casino. (He has not taken me up on that.)

So I was surprised to see a story on this issue two days later in this newspaper. Handy has every right to oppose the casino if he wants, but this temporary facility thing is a non-issue, and he now knows it.

Furthermore, my partner in Great Falls Recreation and Redevelopment LLC, Ron Chicoine, was the tennis coach at the high school, as well as a doctor. I guarantee you that he has no desire to locate a casino next to the high school. None of us do. Let’s use a little common sense, folks.

I also want to make clear that none of us feels any animosity toward Handy. The mayor considers him a good friend. We also know that it was someone else who actually instigated all this, and this person has been telling conflicting stories as to who he works for.

Needless to say, I will be awaiting the filing of the October 25 PAC reports, since someone is going to have to list this person as either a paid consultant or an in-kind contributor or an unpaid debt. We will be watching carefully.

This is a response to Dennis Bailey of CasinosNo:

Dennis Bailey, the hired spokesman of CasinosNo, debated Lewiston City Administrator Ed Barrett at the October Chamber Breakfast. He admitted that his arguments are “ten-years-old” and that “no one listens” to him, as though he’s in a “parallel universe.” After listening to him, I think I can see why.

Bailey asserted that crime increased in Bangor by 400% because of the casino. What? That’s absurd. It just is not true.

The Sun Journal ran a graph that debunked that claim. More importantly, anyone who has been paying attention should know that there is an increase in drug-related crimes statewide, and Bangor has been hit particularly hard. Maine has the highest addiction rate to Oxycontin in the country, and public officials are highly concerned about addiction to prescription drugs.

Law enforcement officials attribute Maine’s crime increases to drug addicts feeding their habits, resulting in “drug-related crimes,” such as burglary, robbery, and theft. Several of Maine’s major newspapers have covered this subject (again) just in the last two weeks.

Bangor’s police chief, Penobscot County’s sheriff, Maine’s Commissioner of Public Safety, the State Attorney General and the federal DEA are all very concerned about the increase in drug-related crime in Maine. Bailey has done Mainers a great disservice in trivializing this significant problem by suggesting that Bangor’s crime increase is due to the casino.

Hollywood Slots in Bangor had their best year ever in 2010, yet the crime rate in Bangor actually dropped last year to levels seen prior to the casino opening.

The Rappaport Institute, affiliated with Harvard University, issued a report in 2005 that compared 156 counties with casinos in 26 states to counties without casinos; it found that crime rates in casino counties actually declined after the casinos were opened.

Last year, the Sun Journal opined, “For years, opponents claimed a casino would create crime and produce more problem gamblers. But the evidence is nonexistent. Bangor’s police chief told the Maine Sunday Telegram that the crimes associated with the Bangor racino are relatively insignificant. A fund, meanwhile, designed to help problem gamblers remains untapped.”

Remember, our project has the active support of two former police chiefs. They should know.

Bailey also claimed that a casino would not help the downtown. He mentioned a few cities by name, but when questioned whether the casinos in those cities were actually in the downtown, he admitted they were not and quickly changed the subject. The problem with Bailey’s arguments is that they apply to resort-style casinos—but that is not what we are proposing. Bailey hasn’t done his homework.

For example, Bailey quoted casino developer Steve Wynn as saying that a casino would not help the local restaurants. What Bailey doesn’t realize is that Wynn was talking about a proposed resort-style casino (i.e., hotels, multiple restaurants, shops, amusement park, dog track and marina) in Bridgeport, Conn., which would have been isolated from the rest of the city.

Nothing was in walking distance from that location (even if you walked 20 minutes), and the surrounding area was unsafe. (I personally went to Bridgeport last year to view the proposed site.) Of course that project would not have helped local businesses; it was not designed to. But ours is.

Come to the Lewiston downtown, park one place and everything is within a five-minute walk. This is fundamentally different from any casino ever proposed in the country. Bailey has had two years to figure that out and still hasn’t: he is being paid not to.

Curiously, while Bailey’s criticisms do not apply to us, they do apply to Oxford. But Bailey basically gave Oxford a free pass last year. Why? There were people here who asked Bailey for signs and didn’t get any.

Oxford, as you recall, asked you to vote for a proposal not knowing where it would be located, which is horrendous public policy. Where was Bailey to complain about that? Then it turned out they wanted to put their casino right on the Androscoggin County line, which would draw entertainment dollars out of the Lewiston downtown. Where was Bailey?

If Bailey really cared so much about L-A, he might have said something about how that plan just over the county line would affect us, but he gave them a free pass.

While we’re on the subject of the Oxford casino, I would point out that, earlier in the year, when it was obvious that Oxford’s poor legal drafting of their own initiative was likely to leave them without a place where they could lawfully build, I offered them the chance to partner with us.

“It makes far more sense to put this in Lewiston,” I said. “Why don’t you just give up on that location and we can be equal partners here in Lewiston?” That’s what I said on about seven different occasions.

Instead, they got their lobbyists to convince the legislature into railroading a substantive change in the law that enabled them to put that casino right on our county line. And where was Dennis Bailey?

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One Response to “Lewiston casino proponent responds to critics”

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