The November Ballot: Question 1 – Tiverton Casino

Drawing courtesy of Twin River Management Group

Midtown Oyster Bar

Once again Rhode Island voters are being asked to approve building a full-scale casino, this time in Tiverton, near the Massachusetts border. This casino would replace the slots parlor now operating in the shadow of the Newport Bridge in Newport.

The issue will appear on the ballot statewide and also in Tiverton. It must pass both a statewide and local vote for approval. It is one of seven statewide referenda on the November ballot.

WhatsUpNewp and WhatsUpRhodeIsland are profiling each of the statewide referenda, in what promises to be a spirited election from the presidency to local public offices and local issues.

The issue.

“Shall a gambling facility and/or activity be established in the town (city) of Tiverton?”

Why is this bond issue important?

Owners of Newport Grand, Twin River Management Group, which also operates Twin Rivers in Lincoln, RI, are concerned about its ability to compete with casinos that may be built in nearby Massachusetts. The Tiverton casino, planned for land off Route 24, will be on the Massachusetts border. It would also be a full-scale casino, with 32 table games and 1,000 slots. Efforts in the past to turn Newport Grand into a full-scale casino, with table games, have failed to win approval from Newport voters.

Twin River Management is estimating that a Tiverton full-scale casino would generate some $50 million plus in revenue for the state of Rhode Island, considerably higher than the state currently receives from Newport Grand. Projections have also shown that if the Tiverton casino is defeated, revenues from Newport Grand would decline.

The city of Newport currently receives slightly less than $500,000 annually from Newport Grand, while Twin River Management is projecting that the town of Tiverton would receive $3 million from gambling revenue.

What happens to the land where Newport Grand is currently located, if the Tiverton casino is approved?

Patti Doyle, a spokesperson for Twin River Management, said ”If the Tiverton ballot measure prevails, Twin River has committed to working with the City on the best and highest use of the property, which includes, if the City and State determine, knocking down the building.”

Projected employment

Twin River Management says the project will generate some 300 construction jobs, and 550 to 600 casino employees, 350 to 400 full time. Twin River Management also says that he first 150 jobs will be offered to current Newport Grand employees.

Specific plan

  • Location is off Route 24 in Tiverton on a 45-acre site, of which 23 acres is developable.
  • Parking for 1,100 customer vehicles and 200 employee vehicles.
  • One thousand slot machines and 32 table games.
  • A sit-down restaurant, plus two or three other “branded third party” restaurants.
  • Eighty-four room hotel.

 

Proponents

Besides Twin River Management, there is a long list of local (Tiverton) to statewide politicians, including the governor. The list also includes Chamber of Commerce officials from Northern Rhode Island, and state labor leaders. It is a well-funded effort, with a reported nearly $800,000 in campaign cash, according to campaign finance reports.

The key argument of the proponents is keeping Rhode Island competitive with the anticipated larger facilities opening in Massachusetts. Gaming revenues, the proponents note, are the third highest revenue source in the Rhode Island budget.

 

Opponents

Four groups are listed as opponents – No Tiverton Casino, Interfaith Clergy of Tiverton and Little Compton, No Casino RI, and Stop Predatory Gambling. According to campaign finance reports this group has not raised any money.

In published reports, however, the group has been specific about its opposition, similar to the opposition that traditionally surfaces to most gaming proposals.

No Tiverton Casino, in a published report, said that the “poorest and most vulnerable citizens” in both Rhode Island and nearby Massachusetts would be “put most at risk.” It calls gambling “a tax on the poor,” and projects a series of negative consequences, including foreclosures, family problems, and financial struggles

In commendatory in the Herald News, Johne E. Higginbotham, rector of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Tiverton, said the Northeast is becoming saturated with casinos, that casinos represent a regressive tax on low-wage earners, the casino will spread gambling addiction, drain wealth from communities, and any financial gains experienced by the state will be offset by social costs.

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