Rhode Island will lose revenue if Massachusetts passes a law legalizing casinos first, according to supporters of a plan to allow poker, blackjack and other table games at a northern Rhode Island slot parlor.
The supporters claim the state could lose up to $100 million from residents traveling to Mass. to gamble more freely.
State lawmakers voted to put casino legalization on next year’s ballot recently, forging a new step in favor of the plan’s supporters. Voters will be asked to allow the Twin River slot parlor in Lincoln to include table games.
“The threats from Massachusetts are real — just a matter of time before the Commonwealth unveils its own gaming plans,” said Twin River spokeswoman Patti Doyle.
Twin River says that Rhode Island would gain an estimated 650 jobs and $60 million in state revenue if the ballot question is approved.
However, voters recently turned down the motion to authorize casinos in 2006 after the Narragansett Indian Tribe’s request to open a casino. Voters must approve casinos, according to state law.
“Every time this comes up it’s rejected,” said state Rep. Michael Marcello, D-Scituate. “At some point you have to respect the will of the voters. I think our time would be better spent trying to find other ways to bring more high paying jobs into the state.”
Many believe the attempts are failing because of fear of gambling addiction.
“The people of Rhode Island see it’s a false hope,” Rev. Eugene McKenna, president of the Citizens Concerned About Casino Gambling, told the Associated Press. “So many people know somebody whose life has been ruined or seriously harmed by addiction. People realize casino gambling is not economic development.”
The spirit of competition may well be the driving force in this race. Rhode Island does not want to lose money to Massachusetts, and is determined to be first.
“We’re last in line in everything we do in Rhode Island,” said Tony Mazzotti, 80, of Cranston in an AP interview. “The state needs every penny it can grab. And if we don’t grab it, Massachusetts will.”
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