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Maine's Oxford Casino Sold to Multi-State Gaming Company
03/29/2013   Reported By: Patty B. Wight
Oxford Casino

The Oxford Casino is being sold to an out of state company. The news comes less than a year after the casino opened, and follows a voter approval campaign in 2010 that touted local ownership as a major selling point.

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The price tag for the Oxford Casino is a cool 160 million dollars in cash.

"Well, we're all Maine business people, and running casinos is not our expertise," said Suzanne) Grover one of the Oxford Casino's seven owners.

Grover said the search for a buyer started about six months ago, and has culminated in a deal with Kentucky-based Churchill Downs, the company that runs the Kentucky Derby.

"Maine is a beautiful area, so it's a very appealing property," said Churchill Downs spokeswoman Courtney Norris.

Maine is also appleaing, said Norris because it is gaming-friendly. She said Churchill Downs is diversifying, adding to its holdings of two casinos in Mississippi, as well as racinos in Florida and Louisiana. Gambling opponents said they're not surprised by the pending sale.
"I told you so," said Dennis Bailey is executive director of Casinos No! "I hate saying that."

He said Mainers have been hoodwinked by casino proponents.

"They sold themselves as local business people" Bailey said "Local owners. Maine-based with a real commitment to the area. That's really why they won. That was their message over and over again."

Mark robinson, a PR consultant who worked on the pro casino campaign said the sale is a surprise to him.

"Well the news runs contrary to everything I was told as I was being recruited to be the spokesperson for the effort," he said.

Promises of local ownership aside, Oxfords' Susan Grover said she and other owners have delivered on their promises.

Oxford casino 4"We uh, won the campaign we put up a beautiful facility," said Grover. "We are employing and they will continue to employ 400-plus people from the state of Maine, and they will continue to move forward with exactly what we were planning to do."

Norris said her company always looks to improve their guest's on-site experiences, and they'll evaluate expansion plans once the sale is complete.

"The company is familiar with the original master plan, and the vision they have for the development of the hotel and other amenities at the property," Norris said.

Oxford Town Manager Michael Chammings said he's fine with the news, and predicts the sale will create even more jobs.

"I think the advantage of what they have, the group that's taking this over, is that they've done this in other areas, and they'll be able to move more quickly on the development of it," said Chammings.

Bailey agrees that's possible, but he said that without a local stake in the casino, there's just as good a chance that Churchill Downs will pull out if the facility isn't making enough money.

The sale is expected to be complete at the end of this year, so long as the Gambling Control Board gives its approval.
Photo by Susan Sharon.

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