According to state Rep. Joseph Trillo (R-Warwick), Quonset is the perfect spot for a “world class casino.” He hopes that together with Rep. John Carnevale (D-Johnston, Providence), he will be able to garner enough support to present a bill allowing a casino at Quonset. Trillo said that Sen. Frank Ciccone (D-Providence, North Providence) is interested in sponsoring the bill in the Senate.
“When Massachusetts builds its three casinos - which they will do - we’re going to lose money,” Trillo said in an interview Wednesday night. “It’s not a question of whether you want gambling or don’t want gambling — gambling is here.”
According to Trillo, Quonset’s deep-water port can accommodate up to four cruise ships at a time. That, together the existing airport, the recently-completed connector road from Route 4, the new rail line and a golf course — “the whole thing is just ready for building.”
Rep. Bob Watson (R-East Greenwich) does not agree.
“It’s a terrible idea,” said Watson Wednesday. “I’m the last one to start criticizing vices but are we willing to get money that way? Has Mr. Trillo ventured down to Atlantic City lately and seen what it looks like there? Does he understand where the money comes from?”
Trillo argued that Quonset would be different, catering more to vacationers as opposed to day-trippers. That’s the difference between this idea and the West Warwick casino proposal of 2005, Trillo said. That proposal was voted down in a general election.
“West Warwick is landlocked. Foxwoods is landlocked. Foxborough is landlocked,” he said, mentioning proposed and actual casino sites. “The biggest thing [at Quonset] is that you could bring in cruise ships.”
Trillo also argued that a casino there would not bother neighbors. “That’s why they built the Navy base there,” he said, noting its relative isolation.
Watson and EG Council President Michael Isaacs both said they thought a casino could hurt local businesses. And Isaacs questioned the need for a new gambling venue in the state.
“We already have two facilities in Rhode Island that have gambling,” said Isaacs, citing Twin River and Newport. “It seems to me that it would make the most sense for those two facilities to become casinos. You have people playing virtual games, what’s the difference?”
Trillo, whose district includes Cowesett and Potowomut, said the sort of casino he envisioned for Quonset would be different and that difference would protect the local economy.
“If you had a world class casino, the people who are going to come to the casino, they don’t want to stay at the casino all the time,” he said. “I don’t see that it’s hurting the local business.”
Trillo conceded that traffic in the East Greenwich area of Division Street and South County Trail/Route 2 could pose a problem. Right now, there is no direct way to go from Route 95 northbound to Route 4 southbound. Instead, cars must exit off of 95 onto Route 2, then make a left turn onto Division Street and use the onramp just past East Greenwich Marketplace. The same is true in the reverse — to get from Route 4 to 95 south, drivers must exit onto Division Street and enter 95 from Route 2.
“There are plans right now on the drawing board to make a direct connection between 95 north to Route 4,” said Trillo. “It needs to be done.”
Trillo said that the next step is to try to garner enough support that the proposal could make it to the legislative floor.
“I’m putting details together, I’m looking for support from people in the General Assembly.”
So far, he said, there are about 35 people interested. “Right now it’s a concept, it’s an idea. When there’s more of a concept together, we’re going to move forward.”