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Expansion of table games not a sure bet

November 4, 2012

LINCOLN – Voters will face a full election ballot when they enter the town’s 12 polling places on Tuesday.
Decisions for electing the President of the United States, members of Congress and local legislative seats will greet voters, but the single, local ballot question, No. 8, for an expansion of gambling at Twin River Casino will likely represent the most significant local decision before them.
Town Clerk Karen Allen said voters will find that important question on a second ballot sheet with no other items on it.
The main ballot sheet for the election of federal and state officials will also hold the state’s seven referenda questions, including two for statewide approval of the expansion of table gaming at Twin River and Newport Grand, in the City of Newport. Question 1 on the state ballot pertains to the addition of table games, such as poker and blackjack, to Twin River’s current video gaming terminal operation and Question 2 on the state ballot seeks similar gaming approval for Newport Grand, also a state-supervised operation like Twin River.
The state Constitution requires approval of both a statewide ballot question and a local ballot question to permit the expansion of gambling operations at either of the state-managed gambling facilities in Lincoln and Newport.
State Question 1 asks “shall an act be approved which would authorize the facility known as “Twin River” in the town of Lincoln to add state-operated casino gaming, such as table games, to the types of gambling it offers?”
The Lincoln gambling expansion question prompted the Town Council to hold a forum on the proposal on Oct. 4 during which Twin River officials and proponents offered details of the proposal’s impact on local and state revenues and Rhode Island employment.
The positives included Twin River’s projection of 350 new in-house jobs being created by the expansion and another 300 in supporting businesses. Twin River also indicated that 100 of its 900 jobs are held by local residents and that its fiscal contributions to the state under its state-supervised operating agreement makes it the third largest revenue stream for the state budget.
Twin River has been averaging $10 million a year in contributions to Lincoln under that agreement, although expansion to table gaming will not include a direct share of the new revenue and only maintain or support the past share of video terminal profits.
John Cullen, a candidate for state Senate, was among a small group of residents voicing opposition to the proposal. Cullen maintained that town voters have always opposed expansion to table gaming at Twin River when given the chance, as had the state in the past.
Other local opponents have voiced concern over the lack of state funding for problem gambling counseling and the Citizens Concerned About Casino Gambling opposing the expansion at Newport Grand has described casinos as an “economic dead-end” while calling for “real economic development.” The group also pointed to table gaming as increasing problem gambling and the related social ills of increased crime, family problems, mortgage defaults and mental illness.
In recent weeks, Twin River has mounted a wide-ranging campaign to highlight its proposal’s local economic benefits including an “Eggs and Issues” breakfast for business leaders at its function center and also a rally on Thursday drawing state supporters of the proposal.
The casino’s ad campaign has included print and television placement highlighting local residents working at Twin River as they explain how their jobs have improved their lives.
Town Clerk Karen Allen wasn’t taking either side on Thursday when she noted that local voters must agree to approve the local ballot question in order for the expansion to move forward.
She did think the importance of the vote might result in a slightly higher turnout in an election already expected to be significant given the faceoff between President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
“We tend to stay out of politics but I think it will bring out some people, sure,” Allen said.
In addition to the slate of U.S. House and Senate candidates on the ballot, local voters will vote on five General Assembly seats representing the town.
Incumbent state Sen. Edward O’Neill, an Independent, will face Democrat John J. Cullen and fellow Independent Derek M. Meiklejohn in a three-way contest for O’Neill’s District 17 seat.
Voters will also weigh in on incumbent Republican Sen. Bethany Moura’s race against Democrat Ryan William Pearson and Independent Steven T. Orsini for Moura’s District 19 Senate seat.
Regarding the town’s three state representative seats, Democrat Gregory Costantino will face Republican James Archer for the Dist. 44 seat held by Rep. Peter Petrarca. Petrarca, first elected in 2003, was defeated by Costantino in the Sept. 11 Democratic Primary.
Democrat Mia Ackerman is up for election after defeating Incumbent Dist. 45 Representative Rene R. Menard in the Sept. 11 Democratic primary. Menard was first elected to his seat in 1989. Ackerman does not have a Republican challenger in Tuesday’s election.
Incumbent Jeremiah T. O’Grady, a Democrat, will face three challengers in local voting for his Dist. 46 House seat. Republican Matthew Guerra is running for the Dist. 46 seat as are Independents Mary Ann Shallcross Smith and Paul DiDomenico.
The town’s 12 polling places will open at 7 a.m. on Nov. 6 along with all other polls in Rhode Island and close at 8 p.m.
, Allen said.
Although Hurricane Sandy impacted southern Rhode Island and parts of Providence and Northwestern Rhode Island earlier in the week, Allen said none of the local polling places were affected by the storm and all will be in operation on Tuesday.

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