Rhode Island Casino Gets Hotel OK

Twin River casino in Rhode Island got the OK to build a hotel adjacent to the casino when Governor Gina Raimondo (l.) signed the bill. At the same time, Twin River, the new owner of the Newport Grand, wants to move that license to Tiverton, near the border with Massachusetts, in order to make the casino more competitive.

Twin River Casino in Lincoln, Rhode Island, last week received approval to build a new 200-room hotel adjacent to the casino when Governor Gina Raimondo signed a bill that had been passed by the legislature.

“As our neighboring states look to draw revenue and economic development away from Rhode Island, we need to examine every possible way to remain competitive and create more economic opportunities here in Rhode Island,” Raimondo said in a statement.

The hotel would contain 150-250 rooms in the style of a Courtyard Marriott or Hampton Inn, and cost between $30 million and $35 million. The project would create 150 construction jobs and 100 permanent jobs.

Meanwhile, the Twin River Management Group has proposed moving the license of the Newport Grand casino in Newport to Tiverton, to make it easier to compete against expected competition from neighboring Massachusetts.

The group has optioned 45 acres in the town, which is near the Bay State border, and plans to build a new casino with 1,000 slot machines and up to 40 gaming tables.

The group recently purchased the Newport Grand and its license in March. It already owns the Twin River Casino. The merger is under review by state lottery and Department of Business Regulation. That approval could come as soon as June 30.

The move would require a positive result to an election that would be held in November 2016 in Tiverton, according to the group’s chairman, John Taylor. He described the proposed casino as a “convenience casino” that would not compete with the Twin River.

In a statement he said, “Given the location of Newport Grand, coupled with the city’s expressed reticence to expand gaming at that venue, we strongly believe this is the State’s best opportunity to preserve and grow the approximately $30 million in gaming revenue from existing Newport Grand operations and equally important, preserve and grow the existing workforce.”

Gaming provides the third largest source of revenue to the state. Last year that amount was $376.3 million. Regional gaming experts expect the state to lose $100 million in revenue when new casinos open in Massachusetts. Especially the slots parlor that will open in June in Plainville with 1,250 slot machines.

Newport has not proven to be especially welcoming to its casino. Twice it has voted down allowing the casino to deploy table games.

State lawmakers appear to be supportive of the move. Governor Raimondo called the idea, “a proposal that could be beneficial for the state. We look forward to learning more details, and to engaging with the town of Tiverton about it.”

Liza Taber, who is part of an anti-casino group called Citizens Concerned About Casino Gambling, said she would like to see the casino leave Newport. She would also like to see gaming leave the state. “I understand the challenges for the state budget, but the level of dependency on gambling revenue for the state, I think, overall is a damaging factor in the long term and really should be evaluated.”

House Speaker Nicolas Mattielo said he supports protecting the revenue source. “I have always been a supporter of Twin River and I applaud them for their creativity and their willingness to invest in our state. Should the Tiverton Town Council request a 2016 referendum to expand gaming, I expect that it would be very well received in the House of Representatives,” he said.

Taylor said that a convenience casino to tap the Fall River metropolitan area would attract customers from that region. “In competitive markets such as this one, location is one of the single biggest determinants of success, and this location, with easy on, easy off highway access will well position us,” he said. The casino might be joined by a “small hotel, Taylor said.

Taylor said he would rely on the residents of Tiverton to help his company develop the kind of casino they would support. “With a plan developed in concert with, and that benefits Tiverton, we hope that they will agree with our vision on how the State can continue to remain competitive in the face of mounting competition from Massachusetts. We believe this process will result in a successful program for the State and the community,” he said.

State governments in Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Maine are scrambling to react to the Bay State’s three planned casino resorts and one slots parlor. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has already licensed two of the casino resorts and the slots parlor is due to open in June.

Two casinos proposed for New Bedford and Somerset are a half hour’s drive from Tiverton.