R.I. voters split on casino expansions

Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Rhode Island voters approved Question One by a margin of 71 percent to 29 percent at press time, backing a ballot measure that will pave the way for state-operated casino gaming at the Twin River casino in Lincoln. Question Two, a referendum on state-operated casino gaming at the Newport Grand casino in Newport, failed after the town’s voters struck down the ballot question, despite the fact that it won 67 percent of the statewide vote. Questions One and Two required majority support both statewide and from voters in the municipalities where the proposed casino expansions were set to occur. 

At press time, 97 percent of precincts had reported their results.

With the approval of Question One, the Twin River casino can now introduce new forms of gambling that were previously illegal at the site, including table games like poker and blackjack. The ballot measure’s supporters included Gov. Lincoln Chafee ’75 P’14 and House Majority Leader Nicholas Mattiello, D-Cranston, who both touted expanded casino gaming as an effective revenue-raiser for Rhode Island. Gambling is the third-largest source of revenue for the state.

Opponents of the two ballot measures have argued that state-operated casino gaming would damage family stability and increase public health costs linked to individuals’ gambling addictions.

Rhode Island also approved other ballot measures, including Question Three, which releases state funds valuing up to $50 million for infrastructure improvements to Rhode Island College, by a margin of 66 percent to 34 percent. With Rhode Island’s budget shortfall, the ballot measure’s supporters had advocated its passage as a way to supplement funding for renovations to the college’s nursing and life sciences building.

By a margin of 77 percent to 23 percent, voters also approved Question Four, which allocates up to $94 million for the construction of a new veterans’ home and upgrades for existing veterans’ centers. The center will receive federal funding that will offset the initial cost by 65 percent and is projected to be completed by 2023, according to the Department of Human Services.

Question Five, which allocates $20 million to state programs for reducing water pollution and improving drinking water quality, also received majority support from Rhode Island voters by a margin of 74 percent to 26 percent. The state government will kick off both programs in 2013 with the goal of completing them by 2017.

Voters approved Question Six, a measure allocating $20 million to protect water quality in the Narragansett Bay, preserve open space and improve recreational facilities, by a margin of 70 percent to 30 percent. 

Question Seven also won approval by a wide margin of 62 percent to 38 percent. The measure allocates $25 million for affordable housing and housing-related renovations throughout the state.