opinion Newport Rhode Island

by Sen. Maryellen Goodwin (District 1, Providence)

All Rhode Islanders benefit from our state’s partnerships with Twin River and IGT. Lottery revenues are the third largest source of state income and are used to provide essential state services such as educating children and caring for the needy.

These two state partners, IGT and Twin River, have been at loggerheads lately as the Legislature debates whether to extend IGT’s lottery contract with the state. Both companies make compelling cases, and we as lawmakers have a responsibility to analyze the arguments carefully before we proceed.

Throughout the public discussion, IGT has emphasized how much they mean to Rhode Island. The company we used to know as G-TECH was founded in Rhode Island and grew into a global business before being acquired by IGT. They constructed a prominent high rise in downtown Providence, and now employ 1,000 Rhode Islanders.

Sometimes lost in the public conversation is just how tremendous a corporate citizen Twin River has been too, and how much they mean for our state.

Revenue from Twin River generates $300 million to the state, $11 million to Lincoln, and $4 million to Tiverton each year. Twin River is one of the state’s largest employers, with 2,400 people working at the Lincoln and Tiverton facilities, and they support hundreds of Rhode Island-based vendors.

The investments Twin River has made, including a new complex in Tiverton and a new hotel in Lincoln, have helped to protect the state’s interests as competition increases in neighboring states.

The Twin River venues are often packed with visitors, including many from out-of-state, enjoying a fun night out. In fact, 5.8 million people visit the casinos each year, making them a top tourist destination.

Additionally, Twin River’s charitable fund provides hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to local non-profits.

The Senate is in the midst of a series of hearings on the IGT contract extension proposal. It is a complicated issue, and we have set aside considerable time to delve into all the details. I am very grateful to the members of the Senate Finance Committee for their thoughtful questioning and for taking the time necessary to thoroughly review every aspect of the proposal.

They have devoted many hours to a hearing process that is both thorough and transparent, including creating a website devoted to the process. 

This is a complex issue, and we must proceed carefully.

Certainly, we don’t want to lose IGT’s regional headquarters and the jobs they provide. However, we must look diligently at all factors. We need to review the cost of the services as well as the Rhode Island jobs provided; the share of video lottery terminals (slot machines) each company provides, and whether that is appropriate; the language guaranteeing job creation and whether specific language regarding a regional headquarters needs to be added; and language to improve transparency and accountability when the contract is amended, as may be the case with any contract of this length.

In the end, whatever path forward is chosen, IGT, Twin River and the state will continue to be partners. We all need to work together now and over the course of any new contract for the mutual benefit of the companies and the taxpayers of Rhode Island.

I have every confidence that after the thorough analysis of the Finance committees, we will arrive at the solution that best serves the people of our state.

Ryan Belmore is the Owner and Publisher of What'sUpNewp.  Belmore has been involved with What’sUpNewp since shortly after its launch in 2012, proudly leading it to be named Best Local News Blog in...