Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.

Gambling legislation may bolster R.I. economy

Rhode Island voters will cast ballots Nov. 6 on a measure that would open state-operated full-scale casino gambling in Rhode Island's two casinos - Twin River Casino in Lincoln and the Newport Grand in Newport.
The upcoming 2012 Rhode Island ballot measure will feature two separate questions for each casino. Question one would enable full-table gambling for Twin River Casino in Lincoln, and question two would enable the same for Newport Grand in Newport.
The implementation of this legislation would be critical for the Newport Grand to remain competitive with casinos in nearby Massachusetts, where Gov. Deval Patrick signed legislation to permit the opening of three casinos and one slot facility last November, said Diane Hurley, CEO and co-owner of Newport Grand. None of these facilities have yet opened full-scale gambling.
In addition to providing important revenue for the city and state, the measure would be critical to maintaining and bolstering the facility's current stream of customers, 50 percent of whom currently come from Massachusetts, said Patti Doyle, spokesperson for Twin River Casino.   
Doyle and Hurley both said the transition to full tables would not require any expansion of facilities. The Newport Grand expects to add about 50 employees, which would translate to a 25 percent payroll increase, Hurley said. Twin River predicts the legislation would bring 350 new jobs and protect 900 existing jobs, Doyle said.
Newport currently receives $900,000 in tax revenue from the Newport Grand and would garner an additional $300,000 annually were full tables added, said Newport Mayor Henry Winthrop. The additional revenue combined with the job opportunities would be "just great" for Newport, he added.
In a Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions poll of Rhode Island residents conducted Sept. 26 through Oct. 5, over 57 percent of respondents favored expanding gambling at the Newport Grand, and 55.6 percent supported the expansion at Twin River.
A number of state officials have also come out in support of the measures.
If the legislation does not pass, the casino, the town and the state would suffer economic losses, putting extra pressure on taxpayers, said Keith Macksoud, president of the Lincoln Town Council.
The benefits of the measure, as well as potential costs - like increased traffic - have been analyzed in comprehensive studies carried out by the state, which have formed the basis for public support from Gov. Lincoln Chafee '75 P'14, said Christine Hunsinger, Chafee's press secretary. Bringing in revenues of upwards of $300 million per year, casinos are the third largest source of income for the state, behind income and sales taxes, she said.
These revenues would benefit education, transportation and infrastructure, wrote Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, D-Jamestown and Newport, in an email to The Herald. Paiva Weed has recently come out alongside Chafee in support of the measure, which she formerly opposed.
But the potential expansion of gambling could have negative effects.
Providence College professors Patrick Kelly and Carol Hartley investigated the nation's two largest casinos, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun in nearby Connecticut, as part of a 2010 study that highlights the increasing frequency of problem and pathological gambling in southeastern Connecticut since the opening of the casinos.
Kelly and Hartley found that the treatment rate of problem gamblers increased from 60 to 500 cases per year. The study included a sampling of cases detailing the fraudulent behaviors of a tax collector, staff accountant, paralegal and auto dealer general manager. When all components of the fraud triangle - opportunity, pressure and rationalization - are present, "trust violations" can and will occur. The pressure corner of this triangle would be exacerbated by the implementation of expanded and tempting casinos, the researchers argue in the paper.
"Many individuals have the propensity for a gambling addiction, but don't realize it," Hartley said, since they think they can get away with the behavior for a time and go back and fix it later.
Neither Hartley nor Kelly said they are anti-gambling - both said they recognize the economic benefits that the legislation promises the state. But Kelly said that if the risks are not accounted for and resources are not properly allocated, issues associated with problem and pathological gambling - which increase nearly twofold for individuals within a 50-mile radius of a casino - will present a challenge to the state.
Wendy Schiller, associate professor of political science and public policy, said that it is generally the poor who have the tendency to gamble, so the state would be making money off of those who have the least to lose, drawing out moral questions like "how do you want to make your money?" she said.
But not implementing full-table gambling does not mean that these individuals would stop feeding their addiction, perhaps through online gaming or in neighboring states, Schiller said, adding that most Rhode Islanders would prefer that the revenue benefit the state.
There has been some provision for problem gambling, said Larry Berman, spokesperson for House Speaker Gordon Fox, D-Providence. Adding games of chance increases the instances of problem gambling, Berman said.
If the measure passed, the state would improve funding for treatment of these issues with proceeds coming from the casinos. But Fox still supports the questions as a measure for "revenue protection."
The legislation, if passed, would permit table games starting July 1, 2013.


Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2023 The Brown Daily Herald, Inc.