While residents of rural Tiverton in the East Bay section of Rhode Island may be divided as to whether or not a casino would benefit their community, they are in agreement that the decision should be put to a statewide vote.
The sole purpose of the Monday night meeting of the Town Council, which was attended by more than 200 people, was to deal with a proposal by the Twin River Management Group (TRMG) to relocate its gambling operation from Newport to the Newport County town of Tiverton. Council members began their own discussion after hearing resident’s comments for more than an hour, after which a 6-to-1 vote requesting the General Assembly approve the Twin River casino’s referendum on the November 2016 state ballot.
TRMG, which owns and manages three casinos, one in Mississippi and two in Rhode Island, as well as a Colorado horse race track , proposes spending approximately $75 million to construct a casino in Tiverton that would include hotel rooms, video lottery terminals (VLT), and table games such as craps, roulette and blackjack, all absent from its Newport Grand operation, which it purchased in July. In April TRMG announced its desire to relocate that operation from Aquidneck Island to a 45-acre parcel off Route 81 near the Massachusetts border to help defend its gambling operation from Massachusetts ongoing gambling expansion, including Wynn Resorts $1.6 billion five-star luxury resort in Everett scheduled to open in January 2017. The proposed 85,000 square-foot casino would be attached to an 84-room hotel and have 32 table games and 1,000 VLT’s, a sit-down restaurant as well as two to three take out style eateries, and a bar with an entertainment.
According to Twin River consultants, depending on Massachusetts gambling expansion the casino would generate between $104 million and $148 million in revenue in 2020. The Town of Tiverton would receive a minimum of $3 million from table games and slots revenue, for a total of approximately $4 million annually after real estate and other taxes, according to Twin Rivers (pdf).
However, referendum approval by both Tiverton residents as well as voters statewide is necessary in order for the casino plan to move forward, and even if that happens the proposal would be subject to normal town and state regulatory approvals necessary for new construction projects. According to Twin River’s chairman John E. Taylor Jr., the referendum won’t be successful unless a number of financial commitments to Tiverton are included in the legislation. Certain payment percentages are meant to be in keeping with what TRMG already pays the Town of Lincoln, where it operates its Twin River Casino, and what it would pay Tiverton.