Bill would let voters decide on table games at Twin River

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A Senate committee is looking at proposed legislation that would allow Rhode Island voters to decide on adding table games to a Lincoln slot parlor.

State Sen. Frank Ciccone has proposed a referendum to move Twin River to a full casino.

“Knowing that Massachusetts is bearing down on us right now and everybody is calculating within the next year or so that Massachusetts will pass it and they will open some type of casino there,” Ciccone said.

The referendum would also establish a gambling commission which would issue a gambling license to the highest qualified bidder.

“We really don’t know who’s out there that’s why the bill was put in. I mean it could stay with Twin River. Obviously the banks are running it right now. But there’s potential that there could be another investor or other groups of investors who might be interested,” he said.

Twin River, which only has electronic games and video slot machines, is the third largest source of income for the state. Last year, the slot parlor brought in about $270 million.

The group that owns the slot parlor said it would like to see table games to compete with existing casinos in nearby Connecticut and projected casinos in Massachusetts.

However, Rhode Island state law requires that voters approve new gambling games.

A representative for Twin River said it should continue to operate the slot parlor with or without table games, but declined to speak with NBC 10.

Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas of the Narragansett Indian Tribe said his group’s bid for a casino was the same as Ciccone’s licensing bill, but was deemed unconstitutional.

“This is basically what we had a few years ago, and we don’t understand how they can do this again without a constitutional amendment. It’s the same exact thing. You know, I think one of our Supreme Court justices used to say years ago, ‘You can call a cat a dog but that doesn’t make the dog bark,'” Thomas said.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee is conducting a survey to find out what might be the best future for casino gambling in Rhode Island

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