Sunday, February 10, 2008


High Stakes Bingo a
Penobscot Perspective

I thought it might be helpful to understand the High Stakes Bingo issue from the Penobscot Nation’s perspective.

Penobscot High Stakes Bingo was legalized in 1992 by a vote of the State Legislature. Representative Priscilla Attean was the Nation’s representative at that time.

The game was allowed because the tribes needed a resource to support they’re tribal governments. The profits from the games would be put into the general fund and be allocated to Fire, Ambulance, Police and Safety, Human Services etc. to help maintain our tribal government infrastructure. The profits from this game have helped tribal government substantially contributing approximately $150,000 or more to our general fund. We’ve been operating High Stakes bingo now for the past 15 years and have found that it is more profitable to operate only seven times a year as opposed to twenty-seven times a year, as many customers are repeat customers and more games just splits the attendance substantially increasing the cost in labor and prizes.

We have had to adjust our marketing strategy and over the years have been able to be successful in attracting a customer base from outside of Maine. Chief Kirk Francis has said “Our people work extremely hard marketing this game and we are second to none.” The Penobscot High Stakes Bingo is the only free standing High Stakes Bingo game left in the country. This means there are no slots or other attractions to supplement it. We are competing against big casinos such as Foxwoods in Connecticut that offer many amenities.
In these times of budget crunches and disappearing revenue it is important to note the following:

Every weekend that we conduct High Stakes Bingo it benefits the whole area economy. We hire 70 part-time workers who use their salaries to supplement their incomes.
We bus in a minimum of twenty-five buses for the weekends. Bus companies earn around $2,000 dollars per bus. Seven weekends a year X twenty-five buses at $2,000 equals $350,000 dollars.
The hotels in the area profit as well 400 to 700 rooms for one, two or three night stays seven times a year comes to an approximate value of $420,000 dollars a year. Restaurants profit as well at one, two, or three dinners a person a minimum of $15.00 dollars amounts to $168,000 dollars. Shopping at local Malls and Convenience stores estimates around $140,000 dollars not to mention advertising on TV, radio and newspapers at $9,000 dollars a weekend times seven. Local printers average $6,500 per weekend and then there’s postage at $7,900 per game weekend. It all adds up.

This has been Penobscot High Stakes Bingos contribution to the area economy for the past 14 years. The past few years have proven disastrous due to the introduction of Hollywood Slots. Our customers tend to spend less money, less money in that they choose to play Bingo only and will not buy the pull tabs instead they save their pull tab money to play the slots at Hollywood Slots located only ten miles away. If the Penobscot Nation cannot afford to operate it’s High stakes Bingo Games, the surrounding communities will feel the economic loss as well.

This is a very serious situation especially given the dire financial straights of the State. They are cutting close to 95million dollars from the budget and are looking to cut another 99 million.
Whole programs are in now in danger of being eliminated.

This bill does not have a fiscal note attached to it. Why? Because it will not cost the State money, it will make money and positively impact businesses in the surrounding communities and other organizations including the State General fund.

The State legislature has voted on a number of occasions to approve this slot bill. The governor stubbornly vetoes it every time. Legislators hate to vote against a governor’s veto and many times they will not.

The State debt keeps rising, placing State programs in more and more jeopardy. This bill has a positive fiscal note. Why not allow it to pass and accept the legislative vote? Why not do something positive to help this failing economy.

Governor Baldacci has claimed that gaming is not an economic tool. I think Hollywood Slots in Bangor has proven him wrong. The people of the State of Maine have legalized slot machines and the gaming industry has proven to be a lucrative one. It is time for Governor Baldacci to recognize this and utilize it for the economic tool it is. He has said he will not raise taxes, he is now putting that option back on the table.

Time to rethink gaming as well. Desperate times deserve desperate measures and unless he realizes this, his legacy will be the first Governor to allow the State of Maine to fall into bankruptcy.

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