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Let the games begin: Twin River holds grand opening for table games

June 19, 2013

Governor Lincoln Chafee, Senator Domenick Ruggerrio, Gilbane President John Sennett, George Nee, House Leader Nick Mattiello and Twin River Chairman John Taylor take part in a charity blackjack tournament for a share of $20,000 donated by Twin River for the charity of their choosing during Table Games Opening Day ceremonies Wednesday. (Photo/Ernest A. Brown)

LINCOLN – Wielding gold-painted hedge clippers, Gov. Lincoln Chafee, Town Administrator T. Joseph Almond, CEO John Taylor and other dignitaries cut a ceremonial red ribbon Wednesday to officially initiate Las Vegas style-table games at Twin River, ushering in yet another new era at a facility that has morphed over the decades from a horse racing track, to a dog track to a slot parlor and now to a full-fledged casino.

“We are not bound by the past,” General Manager Craig Sculos said, welcoming the substantial crowd gathered for the grand opening, taking place nearly two weeks earlier than originally planned, “we respect it, we embrace our future.”

Waiting on the other side of the ribbon, in a room just off the main entrance to the casino, were 38 brand-new blackjack tables, four craps tables, six roulette wheels, four baccarat games and one Big 6 wheel, along with some more exotic games such as pai gow, Spanish 21, 3-card poker and “Let it Ride.” In all there are 66 new table games added to the 4,700 slot machines that have become an integral part of the state’s revenue stream. The state takes 61 percent of the profits from the video slot machines and 18 percent of the take from the table games.

Pawtucket Rep. William San Bento has been a prime mover in the legislature to develop Twin River into a full casino.

“It’s been 12 years I have been trying to turn this place into a full casino,” San Bento said. “It’s been a lot of work, I had a lot of help and support and I am happy today to see it come to fruition. Every year, I’d figure it was a done deal, and then we’d go on to the next year.

“I honestly feel it will be good for the state, money-wise and entertainment-wise,” the Fairlawn Democrat said. “People now want this. I come up and walk around and I see people from all over New England here. I’m just hoping Massachusetts takes their time,” building the destination casinos and slot parlors that were approved by the Bay State legislature and Gov. Deval Patrick. “I don’t see Massachusetts doing anything for three or four years before they are up and running. By then, we’ll have our own niche.”

Experts have said Rhode Island could take a big revenue hit when the Massachusetts casinos open because, among other reasons, a significant portion of the gamblers at Twin River and the state’s other slot parlor, Newport Grand, have been coming here across the border from Massachusetts.

Almond said the town of Lincoln “enjoys a very cooperative relationship with Twin River and we have for decades. They have been an outstanding corporate citizen.

Recalling the referendum campaign to convince voters to support the expansion, Taylor said Twin River promised 350 new jobs at the casino and another 300 in the community from vendors and other nearby businesses. That goal was exceeded, he said, “with more than 400 jobs added so far to the existing workforce of 900, with another 100-200 expected in the coming months. Our total workforce when all is said and done will be between 1,400 and 1,500 people.”

“We envision a highly energized Twin River reflective of a new, younger customer, who until now had to travel south to play table games,” Taylor said of the expected effect of the new offerings. “Now we do really offer something for everyone.”

Chafee told the crowd the renovated casino will provide “good jobs for Rhode Islanders and revenue for the state, which we will spend wisely, I can promise you.

“The place looks great,” marveled House Democratic Leader Nicholas Mattiello, “the possibilities here are endless and when I walked in this morning I couldn’t help but feel the electricity and energy here.

“I don’t know of any other company in Rhode Island that has added 500 jobs this year,” Mattiello said.

After the opening ceremonies, the dignitaries and other invited guests repaired to the Blackjack tables for a mini-tournament, with the celebrities playing for their favorite charities.

The big winner was CEO Taylor, who contributed his $10,000 grand prize to the Lincoln Public Library.

Brian Hunter, an insurance agent who is a former state representative and member of the Twin River Advisory Group gave his $5,000 winnings to Northern Rhode Island Family Services. Sports broadcaster Glen Ordway chipped in his $2,500 prize to the Cumberland Lincoln Boys and Girls Club. Warwick Sen. William Walaska’s $1,250 went to the Trudeau Center. Coming in fifth and sixth were two former New England Patriots stars. Matt Light won $750 for the McColl YMCA, and Steve DeOssie came in sixth, winning $500 for the Gloria Gemma Foundation.

Follow Jim Baron on Twitter @Jim_Baron

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