Judge clears way for November casino referendum

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A Rhode Island Superior Court judge ruled Friday that the state can put casino questions on the ballot in November, denying a challenge from the Narragansett Indian Tribe.

The decision by Judge Melanie Thunberg is a victory for slot parlors Twin River in Lincoln and Newport Grand, which want to offer table games like poker and blackjack to compete with casinos authorized in Massachusetts.

The Narragansett Indian Tribe filed the lawsuit last year to block the ballot questions, saying they are vague and unconstitutional. The tribe’s own casino proposal was rejected by voters in 2006.

The state Constitution requires casino proposals to be approved by voters statewide and in the host community.

John Taylor Jr., the chairman of the Twin River board of directors, released a statement on the decision.

“The judge places the question of table game expansion squarely in the hands of the Rhode Island public who can now determine the importance of preserving 900 existing jobs, the promise of some 650 new jobs and the protection of an invaluable annual revenue stream in the neighborhood of $270 million to the State,” Taylor said.

There was no immediate comment from Narragansett Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas.

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