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Bill looks to boost R.I. gambling industry

The Rhode Island Senate is slated to vote this week on a measure that would allow Newport Grand Slots to host casino-style table games. The proposal passed the state House of Representatives with a 69-3 vote March 6. If it passes the Senate, the measure will be placed on the November ballot for voter approval.

"It is difficult to be competitive without table games," said Diane Hurley, chief executive and owner of Newport Grand. Casinos in the state will soon face increased competition due to a recent law passed in Massachusetts allowing three new casinos to be built, she added. Rhode Island needs "to preserve revenue," said state Rep. Joseph Trillo, R-Warwick, who sponsored the bill. "I strongly urge people to vote in favor of table games."

Trillo has also proposed the establishment of a Casino Impact Study Commission to examine the prospects of building a large "supercasino" in the state to better compete with Massachusetts casinos and increase revenue. He introduced the idea of creating the commission in December, but the proposal was not discussed until three weeks ago.

The commission would investigate the possibilities of building a supercasino either in downtown Providence or in Quonset Point, both of which are easily accessible and centrally located. Sixty-four members of the state House of Representatives have already voiced support for the plan, Trillo said.

Newport Grand was "never built to be a casino," Trillo said, drawing a distinction between the state's small casinos and the larger-scale establishment he envisions.

The location of Newport Grand does not have the travel access or other tourist destinations necessary to draw large crowds, Trillo said. He said the same of Twin River Casino, which already has a table game proposal on the November ballot. Introducing a third, larger casino would attract more people to Providence, Trillo said.

Hurley said she has encountered little opposition to her request for table games and added that she is confident the Senate will vote in favor of the proposal.

Newport Grand "has caused no problems for the city," Hurley said, adding that table games would create incentive for people to gamble in-state rather than going to Massachusetts.


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