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Will Casinos in Mass. Cripple RI's Budget?

The state is expected to lose $422 million in gambling revenue and the big question is: how does Rhode Island make up for it?

As casinos start to open in Massachusetts, Rhode Island is bracing itself for a $422 million sucking sound as revenue that currently pours into Twin River in Lincoln and Newport Grand in the City by the Sea could end up going instead to our neighbor up north.

$422 million in lost revenue is a scary number, since gambling revenue is the state's third-largest revenue source and is expected to bring in about $400 million in the current and next fiscal year.

Officials at Twin River said they're working to limit the impact but the reality is that there's only so much the state can do, WPRI's Ted Nesi reported.

“We’ve said all along that we can focus on the things that we can control, and while we want to be aware of what’s happening over the border, we can’t really have much impact on what happens,” Twin River Chairman John Taylor said last month on myRITV’s Executive Suite. He said the Lincoln company has moved aggressively to prepare itself for the impact.

Governor Lincoln Chafee is calling for the state to keep its share of gambling profits in Rhode Island in his $8.5 billion budget proposal for next year but he is proposing that Twin River and the town of Lincoln get a little more in the coming years, with the state's take decreasing from 18 to 16 percent after 4 years.

The measure would help the town and the casino absorb some of the financial impact from casinos in Massachusetts, but it doesn't answer the question of how Rhode Island can make up for the loss of revenue.

And other measures, like granting table games at Twin River, which lawmakers approved last year, can only go so far if the pool of gamblers in New England doesn't grow. Based on the declines in revenues seen at major casinos in Connecticut, the evidence suggests that more casinos might just be slicing up a limited pie into smaller pieces.

Massachusetts lawmakers are reviewing up to three major casino applications and just recently granted Plainridge Racecourse the state's first slot parlor license.

So what do you think? How should Rhode Island find ways to preserve gambling revenue or make up for a loss in revenues in other areas? Post your ideas in the comments.

The Shill March 11, 2014 at 04:59 PM
The biggest problem is Rhode Island is too small to survive on its own. It is no longer big enough to genarate sustainable revenue. The state shoul enter negotiations with Massachusetts and Connecticut with the goal of merging with one or both.
steve cohen March 11, 2014 at 07:58 PM
@the Shill... I would rather send the national guard to take Bristol county MA and western Connecticut, including Foxwoods. Then RI can right size.
Otto March 12, 2014 at 09:04 AM
It's sad that RI depends so much on gambling revenue. The liberal democrats in the general assembly pride themselves on looking out for the poor to justify the generous benefits we taxpayers give to those who don't work. Yet they embrace gambling revenue which is the most regressive tax that targets the lower income folks.
Glen M March 12, 2014 at 10:24 PM
Ma Casinos will be smoke free! Il never step in Twin River again!
Larry Gotch March 13, 2014 at 07:38 AM
Question? What qualifies someone to be a politician anyway?

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