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Proposed Foxboro Casino Would Devastate Rhode Island

Saturday, December 03, 2011

 

Current and former state lawmakers are sounding the alarm that a possible $1 billion casino across from Gillette Stadium and Patriot Place in Foxboro would devastate Rhode Island’s economy even more than experts have already predicted.

On Friday, the Boston Globe reported that Patriots owner Bob Kraft and casino mogul Steve Wynn have been in talks for weeks about putting a resort-style casino in Foxboro, less than 25 miles from the Rhode Island border.

Wynn, who once considered the Ocean State a potential destination for a casino, is expected to be Kraft’s special guest for this Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts. The Globe reported that the two sides could make an announcement within the next few days.

The Massachusetts state legislature and Governor Deval Patrick have already signed off on a bill that would put three resort-style casinos and a slot parlor in the Bay State, a plan that economists and gaming experts have said could cost Rhode Island more than $100 million annually. The state currently generates nearly $300 million in revenue from the lottery and gaming facilities in Lincoln and Newport.

State Rep: Foxboro Casino Would Wipe Out Twin River

Voters will be asked to decide on whether to allow table games at Lincoln-based Twin River next November, but Republican State Representative Joe Trillo said the outcome won’t matter if a partnership is forged between Kraft and the world’s most well known casino developer.

“Most people think by putting table games at Lincoln is going to solve the problem, it’s not,” Trillo said.
“[A Foxboro casinio] is going to totally wipe out Lincoln. It will probably bring revenue down by two-thirds. They could end up back in bankruptcy. It’s going to definitely make a monumental dent in our revenue.”

Trillo said he believes the way to rival any casino is New England is to build a resort at Quonset Point. He said that would be the ideal location because visitors would have the ability to reach the area through the air, on cruise ships, and on trains, not to mention a brand new highway he claims is underused.

“If we built the right facility there, we would suck business out of Foxwoods,” Trillo said. “We have underutilized Quonset Point ever since we took it over from the government and this is a real opportunity. We already have everything we need. I’m talking a world class casino. I’m not talking a dog track that’s been converted to tables.”

Twin River Spokesperson: A Severe Impact on the State

In any event, Trillo said it would take a $1 billion investment if the state wants to be serious about competing with casinos elsewhere in New England, especially one built so close to the border with Wynn’s name attached to it.

Twin River spokeswoman Patti Doyle did not wish to comment on specific projects in Massachusetts, but said the state’s annual revenue is likely to be hurt if voters do not support table gaming in Lincoln next year.

"Casinos in Massachusetts when brought on line could severely impact the state’s $270 million annual revenue stream from operations at Twin River if the referendum next November does not prevail. Earlier this year, consultants to Twin River assessed an annual impact to the state of approximately $100 million in the first full year of full gaming in the Commonwealth. That was without any table game offerings in Rhode Island. We are focused on educating Rhode Island voters about the merits of authorizing full table games at Twin River, and look forward to their support of the measure in 2012."

State Senator: Horse Has Left the Barn

State Senator John Tassoni raised questions about whether the NFL would be willing to sign off on allowing a casino so close to Gillette Stadium, but said if it is built, Twin River and the entire state could be in serious trouble.

“We might as well close it up, that would kill us,” Tassoni said. “Twin River would go belly up. That’s a destination location.”

Tassoni, who has been an advocate for building a casino for years, said it is time to make Twin River a first-class destination. He said he is concerned it might already be too late.

“The horse has already left the barn,” Tassoni said. “We’re going to be lucky if we’re not on the caboose of the train. We should have done this years ago.”

We Let it Slip Away

Former State Representative Timothy Williamson agreed with both Trillo and Tassoni. He said the state could already have a casino up and running if the measure wasn’t killed in 2006. At the time, West Warwick voters approved a casino in their town, but the plan was overwhelmingly shot down statewide.

“The dollars we’re going to lose is going to be incredible,” Williamson said. “We have no way of making up that money. The dollars are the same exact dollars we were talking about when we were talking about this years ago.”

Williamson continued: “There is definitely going to be a trickle-down effect. It amazes me because we had the opportunity. We had it right in our hands we went it let it slip away. I mean Steve Wynn was in our neighborhood five years ago.”

Williamson said the state would never recover if a casino was built at Foxboro.

“I’ve always said we are in a race with Massachusetts and if we lose that race, we'll never get it back.”
 

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