Rhode Island Casino Takes Steps to Stay Competitive

Faced with strong competition from casinos expected to come online in the next few years in Massachusetts, Rhode Island’s Twin River Casino is taking some defensive actions.

Twin River casino in Rhode Island is taking steps to defend itself from looming competition in neighboring Massachusetts, a competitive that can’t help but harm the casino’s bottom line.

Some estimates say that Twin River could lose $100 million annually to the Bay State’s planned three casino resorts and single slots parlor. A consultant hired by Twin River projected losses of 30 to 35 percent depending on which casinos are approved by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.

To defend against that Twin River Casino Chairman John Taylor says the facility is upgrading but also purchasing properties in other states. It recently bought a casino in Mississippi and is trying to convert a racetrack it owns in Colorado into a racino.

Taylor, interviewed by the Providence Journal, said last week, “There’s absolutely going to be an impact. A lot of that is going to be driven by where these things get built.”

None of the locations contemplated for a slots parlor would help Twin River, but Penn National Gaming’s proposal for Plainridge Racecourse would probably hurt it the most, according to Taylor.

The other slots parlor in Rhode Island, New Grand, also is likely to take a big hit from Massachusetts’s casinos.

Gaming revenue from the two casinos provides the third largest revenue source to state government.  This year the state will reap an estimated $303.7 million from Twin River and $26.4 million from Newport Grand.

Twin River has dealt with challenges in the past few years. Its previous owners filed for bankruptcy in 2009 and a consortium of banks and financial firms took over the casino in November of 2010 appointing Taylor as chairman of the board of directors.

Two years later the state’s voters approved adding table games to Twin River, making it more competitive against Las Vegas style casinos in the region. Table gaming has now operated there since last July. That boosted profits and led to hiring 600 more employees. The initiative that allowed table games also gave the casino a larger percentage of table game profits, with the state getting 18 percent, compared to 60 percent for slots.

One thing Twin River can’t add by state law is a hotel. The legislature adopted a special measure that prevents such a development, although currently a bill is being studied that would remove that ban.

Even if that were to pass, the casino considers itself a “drive-in” or “convenience” casino, rather than a destination.

In December Twin River announced the purchase of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi for $250 million. That deal could close this summer.