New Gambling Tax on the Table Today
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
State lawmakers today will discuss a bill that would grant the state an 18 percent share for all table games if voters approve a plan that would allow for games such as blackjack, craps, poker and roulette to be played at Twin River and Newport Grand this November.
The bill is sponsored by Finance chairman Helio Melo in the House chamber and Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin on the Senate side.
Some reports have suggested the state could lose up to $100 million annually once Massachusetts opens three resort-style casinos and a slot parlor. In Rhode Island, a coalition of business leaders and union official has been formed to push voters to support the table games referendum on the ballot this year, citing the chance for job creation and the concern over the programs that would be cut if the state were to lose that much revenue.
Gaming remains the state’s third largest source of revenue.
“It is therefore imperative that action be taken to ameliorate the anticipated adverse effects on state revenues from competition from gaming facilities recently authorized in Massachusetts,” the legislation reads. “It is also imperative that action be taken to preserve and protect the state’s ability to maximize revenues at Twin River and Newport Grand in an increasingly competitive gaming market by expanding critical revenue-driving promotional programs through legislative authorization and necessary amendments to contracts, previously authorized by the General Assembly, to position the promotional programs for long-term success.”
Still, the legislation has also been met with criticism by the Ocean State Tea Party in Action. According to an e-mail sent to supporters Sunday night, gambling revenue simply preys on the poorest citizens in the state. The message suggested the state can instead save hundreds of millions of dollars by addressing waste and fraud in the welfare system.
“What poses an imminent threat to the public welfare of Rhode Islanders is the fact that there is no plan to reduce government spending and thereby reduce or even eliminate its dependence on gambling revenue, in effect, a regressive tax that impacts the lowest wage earners in the state,” the message said.
A referendum will need to be supported by the majority of voters statewide as well as the town of Lincoln in November. Last month, 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.”