100-mile law puts casino plans on hold
Mainers are anticipating the construction of Black Bear Entertainment's newest business venture, the Oxford Resort Casino, a four seasons resort and casino that will be built in southwestern Maine. This mammoth endeavor advertises the availability of outdoor activities, such as hiking and blueberry picking, within proximity of a carnival like atmosphere of glittering slot machines that whir with the anticipation of a big payday.
However, before the dollar signs begin to glint in the eyes of eager gamblers, Black Bear has an obstacle to overcome. Maine law states that casinos must be at least 100 miles apart and Hollywood Slots in Bangor is 94 miles away from the planned site for the state's second casino. A statewide referendum last fall resulted in the voter's approval of the new Oxford casino, but the favor of the legislature has yet to be gained.
If one were to measure based on the distance of main roads used for transportation, the two casinos would be an appropriate distance apart.
“That’s how people travel,” Peter Martin, spokesman for Black Bear Entertainment, said in a press release. “They don’t get in their planes...and fly to Oxford. They get in their cars and drive.”
It is the controversial direct route between the two, which no one would actually be traveling on, that measures less than 100 miles. Black Bear is hoping that on the grounds of the most common transportation route, they will be considered within the confines of the 100-mile law and be permitted to begin construction.
The question is whether the entertainment group will try to plead their case that the distance by road is according to the statute, or if they will try to overturn the law altogether.
Though he does not necessarily oppose the Oxford casino, Ed MacColl, an attorney for Scarborough Downs, a nearby horseracing track, argues that Black Bear’s proposed site does not follow the 100-mile law.
“Courts around the country virtually always interpret it to mean straight-line distance,” he said in a press release. “Whether something is within X miles of something else by straight line isn’t ambiguous. But whether it’s within X distance on the route of ordinary travel does get ambiguous because you can have a debate as to what’s the route of ordinary travel.”
Scarborough Downs faces the threat of going out of business if they are not able to put in slot machines to compete with the potential presence of the Oxford Resort Casino. If the 100-mile law is not changed, but the legislature's consent is given to the construction in Oxford, then Scarborough Downs will be unable to incorporate slot machines based on its close proximity to Oxford.
MacColl has approached Black Bear about working together in finding a mutually beneficially solution, but the company’s representatives have yet to comment. They "want that their project can go forward and our project can't,” MacColl said. Scarborough Downs may have to seek out
their own referendum.
Proponents of the Oxford casino argue that gaining the permission of the legislature would support the development of a resort that could open up hundreds of jobs for Mainers and could create a popular new vacation destination.
“Oxford County and its surrounding areas offer an incredible abundance of natural resources...perfect for hiking, biking, boating, fishing, hunting, four wheeling, snowmobiling and exceptional cross country and down-hill skiing and boarding,” Black Bear Entertainment states on their website. In addition, the resort plans to embody a spa, fine dining and a convention facility. If Black Bear is successful, the Oxford Resort Casino could bring with it the possibility of enhanced tourism and finances to the area.