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By Kimberley Donoghue
PBN Web Editor
LINCOLN – The Twin River gaming facility released a study this week aiming to underscore the economic benefits of allowing table games in Rhode Island ahead of Massachusetts legislators stepping up pressure to permit casinos in the Bay State.
“Our neighbors in Massachusetts came very close to authorizing destination casinos in their last legislative session,” said John E. Taylor, chairman of the Twin River Casino board. “There is little question that [the state] will welcome full-blown destination casinos quite soon, and when it does, over half of our business will be at risk.”
Taylor said if the Bay State does come online with three destination casinos, Twin River stands to “conservatively lose” about 27 percent of its revenue in their first full year of operations, and if racinos [casinos with track betting] are permitted, that number shoots to 35 percent.
“With multiple full destination casinos mere miles away on both sides of us, all having a substantially lower tax rate, the competitive environment will be brutal,” Taylor said, citing estimates of the gaming revenue loss to Rhode Island in the ballpark of $100 million per year.
The video slots parlor did not release the full economic impact study, only an executive summary, citing competitive confidential information.
According to the executive summary, a one-time $5.0 million renovation to install 65 table games would employ 31 people and additionally, $2.8 million would be spent on pre-opening expenses such as employee training and uniforms.
Twin River also looked at the ongoing effects of table games.
“Table games are much more labor intensive and require front-line employees such as dealers and hosts as well as managers, accountants, marketing professionals and executives,” it explained. Although the property can house 125 table games, the study looks at the effect of 65 table games; spokeswoman Patti Doyle said it did so as to have a “conservative beginning of the conversation.”
The table games would lead to 653 new jobs long term, the study asserts, including employees at Twin River as well as jobs created through “additional activity” in the economy. The employees would earn $35.4 million in income, excluding tips.
The overall economic impact on the state with the addition of table games would shoot from $165 million to $227 million annually, Taylor said.
When looking at the tax impact, Twin River said the expanded offering is expected to increase its video lottery terminal revenue by attracting customers interested in both slot and table offerings.
Rhode Island could see an additional $11.0 million from “various” VLT revenue streams, the study asserts, basing its estimates on a 12 percent table game tax, and $8.2 million in new revenue in state gaming taxes (the facility said that it currently pays about $290 million to state and local agencies per year).
The group noted other tax rates range from 0 percent in Connecticut, where Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun are located, to 16 percent – dropping to 14 percent – in Pennsylvania, 12 percent in Mississippi and 8 percent in New Jersey.
Twin River estimated it would pay $23.8 million more in taxes with the addition of table games, the study said. Sales, property and corporate income taxes are seen increasing collectively by $1.7 million.
Separately, the Small Business Association of New England asked the approximately 60 attendees at its Feb. 9 meeting if Rhode Island should allow Twin Rivers to become a full-fledged casino. Fifty-seven percent said “yes,” 34 percent said “no” and 9 percent were unsure.