By Leslie H. Dixon
OXFORD — The Police Department has seen a nearly 80 percent increase in calls for service from the Oxford Casino so far this year, but local officials say improvements are being made to cut down on the local response.
According to information from the department, the Oxford Police Department has answered 198 calls at the casino on Route 26 between January and October of this year. Last year during the same time period the department answered 110 calls from the casino, said Police Chief Jon Tibbetts.
The calls ranged from intoxication to trespassing, and also included drugs, child abuse and removal of unwanted persons, but the great majority of the calls involved alcohol, according to the incident summary report for that period in 2016.
“There have been an increase for calls for service [to the Oxford Casino] and it was starting to create a hardship for the department,” Tibbetts told the Advertiser Democrat.
Tibbetts said there has been an increase in calls particularly for people who were drinking alcohol in the parking lot – a situation that the casino security would automatically ask police to respond to, he said.
“Most of the time the people involved were not aware that it was illegal to drink in the parking lot and when confronted they were cooperative,” Tibbets said.
But because of the increase, Tibbetts said police met with casino officials to work on having the casino security take a more proactive role.
“Casino security does address the issue of intoxication within the casino and will call us if the person is not cooperative or does not have an alternative driver to take them home,” Tibbetts said.
Jane McClay Hoyt, advertising and public relations coordinator at the Oxford Casino, said general manager Jack Sours meets regularly with the town manager and police chief and works closely with the local police department to ensure the safety of the casino guests.
“Security staff, surveillance operators, and food and beverage shift supervisors are on constant watch for those who display signs of intoxication. When someone is identified as possibly intoxicated, there is a strict protocol that is followed to resolve the situation,” Phil Everett, Oxford Casino director of hospitality, said in a statement to the Advertiser Democrat.
“It is compulsory that all team members satisfactorily complete a course and receive certification from the BABLOS (State of Maine Bureau of Alcohol Beverage and Lottery Operations) Alcohol Service Course,” he continued. “This class and certification is taken by all front of house food and beverage team members as well as security and all supervisors and managers that interact with guests.”
Tibbetts said the increase in calls to the facility that opened in 2012 was not causing a financial hardship even though the casino does not pay the department directly for response for help.
“The town does receive about $1.5 million a year from the casino to offset the impact of the casino,” Tibbetts said. “This money goes to the town and is distributed by the selectmen. It does not go into any specific budget for emergency services or any other designation.”
Town Manager Derik Goodine said he wants the casino to deal with problems the way any bar or tavern in town would and that is to deal with it as much own their own as possible.
“Those places (bars and taverns) usually deal with issues on site rather than call the police to deal with them and I wanted to make sure the casino was no different,” said Goodine. “I was satisfied that they were dealing with their own issues regardless of how much money the casino sends us.”
Hoyt said the goal is to ensure the facility is safe for patrons.
“We are definitely diligent about possible intoxications and we strive to provide a safe environment in which to game and have a good time,” she said.