LINCOLN – A woman visiting Twin River Tuesday evening said she wouldn’t give a second thought to voting approval of full casino gambling.
Of course the woman was a resident of Massachusetts and her comment was directed toward the approval of casino gambling in her state not Rhode Island.
“Why should Massachusetts give up money to Rhode Island,” the woman said before heading on her way.
That question may well have been on the minds of both state and local voters Tuesday as they gave a solid vote of approval to the expansion of casino gambling at Twin River.
The campaign for Question 1 approving table gaming at Twin River at the state level and Twin River’s Question 8 before voters in Lincoln focused on the potential loss of local video terminal revenue to gambling casinos now proposed in Massachusetts as well as the potential for new jobs from the addition of table games at Twin River and Newport Grand.
The town will not receive a share of the new revenues at Twin River but the threat to its 1.4 share of Twin River video terminal proceeds appears to have been enough to secure overwhelming local support of the town question on the expansion to table gaming.
The decision had Twin River CEO John Taylor praising the town’s voters for their support of the casino’s expansion from an election night gathering at Waterplace Restaurant in Providence.
“I am overwhelmed by the support voters in Lincoln and in state have shown for us,” Taylor said.
Local voters granted the expansion an approximate 75 percent nod of approval, according to informal results collected from the polls, and the state question appeared to be heading to a 71-percent margin of approval, according to Taylor.
The local support for Twin River came during a presidential election that left lines of voters still waiting to vote at the Lincoln Middle School and Lincoln Elementary School polling places as the state’s poll closing time arrived at 8 p.m. Town Clerk Karen Allen reported that all voters in line at those polls before 8 p.m. would be allowed to vote despite the closing time.
“If they are in line at 8 p.m., they will vote,” Allen said. Although voters did have to show an ID this year to obtain their ballots, Allen said she did not see that as the cause for the local lines and expected the more likely cause a heavy turn out for the presidential contest. “It’s a big turnout which is a good thing,” she said.
The state had also placed table gaming questions on the ballot for the Newport Grand video terminal operation in Newport but that proposal did not appear to be gaining local approval during early vote tallies.
With a win on both questions looming for Twin River, Taylor said the next step will be certification of the vote and then the state’s creation of rules to run the new gaming operations.
The casino’s video game terminals currently provide $290 million to state coffers and another $10 million to $11 million to Lincoln on an annual basis, according to Taylor. The new operation of table games such as poker and blackjack run by casino dealers is expected to add another $60 million in casino revenues, he said. On top of that, the new operation is expected to add 300 jobs in support services to Twin River and $165 million in overall impact the Rhode Island economy.
After working out the new rules of operation with the state, Twin River will begin the actual planning for construction of the new gaming areas inside the existing Twin River facility off Twin River Road and Old Louisquisset Pike, according to Taylor.
Taylor anticipates the expansion will cost approximately $2 million for interior renovations and Twin River but pointed to the hiring of 350 new Twin River employees to run the new games as an even larger undertaking. “So there is still a lot of work to do but we are ready to begin that tomorrow,” Taylor said.
The local support may also have been the result of Twin River’s work to be a good neighbor in Lincoln, Taylor offered in a final note. “I think the vote shows that people in town respect that effort and also value the $11 million in revenue we contribute to the town each year,” he said.
The celebration of the vote was held at Waterplace Park because that was where the campaign had been kicked off back in April, Taylor said.
Joining Twin River officials at the gathering were the campaign’s supporting partners, Laurie White of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, John Gregory of the Northern Rhode Island Chamber and George Nee, president of the AFL-CIO of Rhode Island.