Momentum grows for expanded gambling

Mass. casinos could hurt Newport hospitality sector

The threat of new tourist-snatching resort casinos just across the Massachusetts border has grabbed the attention of Newport’s hospitality industry, which is already showing support for expanded gambling at the vulnerable Newport Grand Slots. More

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Focus: HOSPITALITY

Momentum grows for expanded gambling

Mass. casinos could hurt Newport hospitality sector

PHOTO COURTESY NEWPORT GRAND/ANDREA HANSEN
WORTH THE RISK? While Newport Grand Slots has expanded in recent years to include virtual table games, the facility, along with Twin River, stand to lose revenue to Massachusetts, where lawmakers approved three resort casinos.
Posted 1/30/12

The threat of new tourist-snatching resort casinos just across the Massachusetts border has grabbed the attention of Newport’s hospitality industry, which is already showing support for expanded gambling at the vulnerable Newport Grand Slots.

“Before Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, Newport was the queen of New England resorts – Newport’s market share was premium – but for 15 years Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun have developed into destination resorts themselves.” said Evan Smith, executive director of the Newport and Bristol County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. “Yes, we are very concerned about more casinos opening like that in Massachusetts. Those types of casinos will be direct competitors for us in the resort and entertainment business.”

Newport County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jody Sullivan called the potential economic blow from Massachusetts casinos “very serious,” to both the state and Newport from the potential loss of tax revenue alone.

“It is very troubling and we have to look at our options,” Sullivan said.

Since Massachusetts lawmakers last fall approved the creation of three resort casinos, including one in the southeastern part of the state, Rhode Island leaders have been scrambling to find ways to account for what is expected to be a massive loss of business and tax revenue from the Ocean State’s two existing slot parlors. A state-commissioned study by Christensen Capital Advisors estimated an annual loss of more than $100 million in taxes to Rhode Island from fully built-out gambling in Massachusetts.

Sensing trouble on the horizon, the larger of the two slot houses, Twin River in Lincoln, last year asked the state for permission to expand to full table-game gambling and was granted a voter referendum on the issue in November’s state ballot.

In the past, Newport leaders, including Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, D-Newport, have resisted expanded gambling in the city and the family-run Newport Grand, a converted jai alai fronton, did not join Twin River in seeking table games last year.

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