By Rebecca Keister
PBN Staff Writer
Voters this November will have a say, once again, on whether the state should allow full-fledged casino gambling. But the matter is far from the public’s hands and the real work on behalf of Twin River and Newport Grand Slots, the two facilities who have high casino hopes, is just beginning.
They’ll both find a very different landscape in which to frame the debate than existed the last time voters statewide weighed in on the matter, in 2006, soundly defeating a proposal to amend the state constitution.
Twin River, the Lincoln slot-machine facility that opened five years ago, on April 16 held a kickoff event for its “Bringing Jobs to Rhode Island” campaign at Waterplace Park in Providence. It was attended by several high-profile supporters, including representatives from the Greater Providence and northern Rhode Island chambers of commerce, as well as a few hundred others.
“We’re really trying to have a dialogue with voters and that [just] started,” said John E. Taylor Jr., chairman of Twin River. “We’ll aggressively go out and talk to anyone who is willing to talk to us, to get their support.”
Taylor is candidly undaunted by the challenge of convincing voters to allow his facility to add table games that he, and others, pledge will bring jobs and money to the state, as well as prevent Rhode Island from losing the casino race it appears to be running with Massachusetts. Mass. Gov. Deval L. Patrick recently signed legislation that would allow for the opening of up to three full-fledged casinos there.
Proponents of casino gambling in Rhode Island have been unable to garner statewide approval in the past due to strong public opposition. (This time around the votes for two separate ballot questions allowing table games at each facility, in addition to needing statewide backing, also must pass in each of the local communities – Lincoln and Newport.)
The most recent statewide ballot vote, which asked in 2006 whether the state should amend its constitution to allow expanded gambling, was handily defeated 63 percent to 37 percent.