Can Casino Gaming Save Rhode Island?
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
A coalition of business and organized labor leaders from across the state are joining together to promote the expansion of table gaming at Lincoln-based Twin River, which voters will decide on in November.
On Monday, hundreds of supporters took to Waterplace Park in Providence to kick off the “Bringing Jobs to Rhode Island” campaign, an effort to convince voters in Lincoln and across the state that table gaming will create 650 new jobs while also protecting the state’s third largest source of revenue from competition coming in Massachusetts.
“April 16th marks the first day in a journey to bring 650 new jobs to Rhode Island,” said John Taylor, chairman of Twin River. “Twin River already contributes 900 jobs to the benefit of the state’s economy. Table games will allow us to add 350 more, as well as generate an additional 300 jobs in the state, while providing exciting new entertainment options for our visitors.”
Gambling Revenue Vital to State
A referendum will need to be supported by the majority of voters statewide as well as the town of Lincoln in November. During the event, prominent figures from both the business and labor sector touted gaming as essential to the state’s economy, noting that year-over-year revenue at the casino has increased in 30 of the last 31 months, and has contributed $2.55 billion to Rhode Island since 1992.
“To say that Twin River is a valued employer to the state of Rhode Island is an understatement,” said George Nee, president of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO. “You can’t underestimate the importance of the 900 jobs they currently provide, especially the additional economic impact that provided [it] provides the state. To be able to add 350 well-paying jobs to the casino, as well as 350 more through related businesses and vendors, well, that’s something that we’re her today to show our full support for voter approval of the referendum.”
With the state’s unemployment rate stuck at 11 percent –the second highest rate in the country— the coalition says the expansion of table gaming at the casino is vital to the future of the state. With Massachusetts poised to build three resort-style casinos and a slot parlor over the next decade, reports have indicated the state could lose $100 million annually if Twin River does not expand. More than half of Twin River’s patrons currently reside in the Bay State.
According to Laurie White, president of the Greater Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce, expansion at Twin River would provide a much needed boost in economic impact in the state.
“Twin River is an important asset to Rhode Island,” White said. “It is the third largest source of revenue for the state, providing $270 million to general fund last year for vital services. The addition of table games will not only provide a much need boost in employment and corresponding economic impact, it will allow Twin River the ability to remain competitive at a time when it’s needed most. There is strong support among business, labor and community leaders here today because we recognize how vital it is that we approve the referendum on November 6th.”
The state currently receives more than $300 million each year from gambling-related revenue. While Governor Lincoln Chafee was not in attendance for Monday’s rally, he has indicated that he supports efforts to expand to table games at Twin River.
“We are prepared for competition – whether it comes from Massachusetts, Connecticut, or New Hampshire – and I remain fully committed to protecting this vital source of revenue,” Chafee said late last year.
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