LINCOLN, R.I. —
Rhode Island voters will be asked to approve table games at Twin River in Lincoln and Newport Grand when they go to the polls in November. The questions also have to be approved in each community.
Old arguments against expanded gambling remain. The new argument in favor is based on what Massachusetts is preparing to do just over the border, where three casino licenses are up for grabs.
It’s a pretty simple ad campaign supporting the ballot question. An organization called Bring Jobs to RI focuses on just that.
“On Nov. 6, we can help Twin River save 900 jobs and add 650 new ones,” a man in a hard hat says in the commercial.
Although there would be no construction jobs created, the workers at Twin River are unionized.
“It would be tremendous for the state with respect to the number of jobs it would create and preserve. So the 900 jobs at Twin River would be preserved, another 350 new jobs would be created at the property alone,” Twin River spokeswoman Patti Doyle said.
Twin River’s already committed $2 million to this campaign. Ironically, it was the primary opponent to a casino in West Warwick six years ago.
Opposed then and now is the Rev. Eugene McKenna, who represents the group Citizens Concerned About Casino Gambling.
“We know clearly that Rhode Island needs jobs. There’s no question about that. But we’d like to see the jobs in something more constructive than just table games,” McKenna said.
Besides his argument that the state should be pursuing more productive economic development, McKenna said the dangers outlined by an economist suggest the revenue numbers may be overestimated.
“This economist maintains that for every $1 that comes into the state through gambling revenue, there are social costs of $3,” McKenna said.
Doyle said problem gambling programs are slated for expansion with or without the addition of table games. And while statewide approval could allow table games at the state’s two slot parlors, McKenna said he hopes the required local approval may fail in his hometown of Newport.
A lawyer for the Narragansett Indians said the tribe is disappointed the state Supreme Court did not examine whether the current casinos are really run by the state, as required by law.