Higher Ed

Twin River Casino seeks more games, revenue

Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Twin River Casino, a slot parlor in Lincoln, R.I., is considering expanding to add table games such as blackjack and poker to its repertoire.

A study commissioned by the casino found that the addition of 125 tables would result in a $69 million revenue increase and 660 new jobs on site and in the surrounding community, not including temporary construction jobs, according to Patti Doyle, a Twin River spokeswoman.

With economic benefits in mind, 57 percent of members of the Rhode Island chapter of the Smaller Business Association of New England voted in favor of supporting the effort of Twin River to become a full-fledged casino.

Members “feel that there is a lot of money lost (to) other states, particularly Connecticut, by not having a full-fledged casino in the state,” said Phil Papoojian, vice-chairman of the chapter.

On its website, Twin River advertises itself as “a great alternative to Connecticut casinos.”

In 2010 the Massachusetts state legislature rejected a proposal to authorize the creation of three full-blown casinos, but the proposal is now under consideration again.

“Were there to be full casinos in Massachusetts, Twin Rivers should become a full casino as well to remain competitive,” said Michael Trainor, director of communications for Governor Lincoln Chafee ’75 P’14.

Trainor said the expansion would also benefit the state by increasing tax revenue. “The state receives 60 cents for every dollar paid out to Twin River,” Trainor said. Last year that revenue amounted to $260 million, he added.

With these benefits in mind, Chafee would be expected to support the measure, Trainor said, though “he has no official position on this yet because there has been no legislation filed.” He added that Chafee “does not see much difference between what already exists at Twin River and what a casino would be.”

But the Narragansett Indian tribe — which currently receives compensation because they have been prevented from building their own casino — should be “at the table in discussions” if gambling does indeed expand in Rhode Island and should receive additional revenue, Trainor said.

He also said the conversion to a full casino would set a precedent.

“The other slot parlor in Rhode Island is in Newport — it’s called the Newport Grand — and it, too, could ask for table games to be added to its facility,” said Trainor. But he added that Newport Grand has not indicated any interest in such an expansion.

Trainor said the residents of Lincoln might be opposed to the expansion for fear of increased traffic and the potential for crime, such as prostitution, that can accompany casinos.

But according to Doyle, the Lincoln Town Council supported putting the expansion to a state-wide ballot question last year. The question — which would have overridden a veto by then-Gov. Donald Carcieri ’65 of a bill allowing table games at the casino — never made it to the ballot last year.

Doyle said many residents had been concerned about traffic when Twin River began operating 24 hours a day last year, but the casino has not received significant traffic complaints. She said prostitution is “absolutely not” an issue.

“It’s a very well-regulated facility,” Doyle said, adding that the casino employs its own security force in addition to receiving support from the Lincoln Police Department.

Despite a favorable political climate, the expansion could potentially be years away. “There’s no timetable attached to the conversation,” she said.

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