Table games OK'd for Twin River, not Newport
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Casino games are coming to the Twin River slot parlor in Lincoln — but not the Newport Grand after local voters balked at bringing poker and blackjack to the seaside Rhode Island city.
Voters in Lincoln and statewide overwhelmingly supported a ballot question in Tuesday’s election that authorizes casino games at Twin River. Voters around the state also supported a ballot question seeking to bring table games to Newport Grand. But the measure failed because casino proposals must win the support of voters in the facility’s home community to pass.
Owners of the facilities said table games would create jobs and state revenue and allow them to compete with casinos now authorized to be built in Massachusetts.
Rhode Island voters also approved ballot questions authorizing the construction of a new veterans home in Bristol and classroom renovations at Rhode Island College.
The successful casino referendum will give Twin River a head start over Massachusetts, where casinos are still years away from opening. Twin River could begin offering table games as early as next summer, according to John Taylor Jr., chairman of the Twin River board of directors.
‘‘We feel we can compete (with Massachusetts) but we needed a level playing field,’’ Taylor told WJAR-TV.
The state’s two slot parlors contribute about $300 million a year to state coffers. A study commissioned by Gov. Lincoln Chafee estimated that casinos in Massachusetts could siphon more than $100 million a year from the Rhode Island treasury.
One voter who endorsed the referendum said she doubts casino games at Twin River will do much to help the state’s economy, but she didn’t see the sense of voting no if casinos will soon open in Massachusetts. Mary Alice Conlon said she has opposed earlier efforts to bring casino games to Twin River but changed her mind this year.
‘‘It’s already here,’’ the 53-year-old Lincoln resident said of the slot parlor. ‘‘I don’t think it will make that big of a difference, but I don’t think it will hurt either.’’
Opponents had argued that casinos would increase gambling addiction. Lincoln resident Karen Shilad, 56, said she doesn’t think casinos will be a great boon to the state. She voted no.
‘‘There are better ways to create jobs,’’ she said.
Voters also endorsed several other ballot questions:
— A $94 million plan to construct a new veterans home in Bristol and renovate the existing facility, which a 2008 study called antiquated.
— A $50 million upgrade to Rhode Island College. Of the total, $44 million will pay to refurbish two large classroom buildings and $6 million go toward an expansion of the nursing and life sciences building.
— A $25 million effort to build or renovate an estimated 600 affordable housing units throughout the state.
— A $20 million plan to preserve open space, improve parks and recreational facilities and protect water quality throughout the state.
— A $20 million wastewater and drinking water construction project.
Associated Press Writer Michelle R. Smith contributed to this report.