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Rhode Island Considers Gaming With Ballot Question 2
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Rhode Island Considers Gaming With Ballot Question 2

Rhode Island is yet another state to consider the expansion of casino gambling in a voter referendum, with ballot measure Question 2 and Question 1. These will deal with whether the casinos at Twin River and Newport will be allowed to introduce gaming tables into their repertoire – right now they can only offer video lottery terminals and simulcast racing.

The ballots will be both statewide and local, and the voters could vote to expand both facilities, one, or neither. There is a fair amount of opposition to the plan, but in recent polls both of the Questions were polling over 55 percent in favor of passage. If they do pass, it would allow the facilities to begin offering table games.

Newport Grand, in Newport, currently employs about 200 people and has added approximately $550 million dollars in tax revenues to the state’s coffers since 1976. Opponents concede that there is little chance of defeating the statewide ballot questions, but that one or both may be defeated locally.

Since casinos usually employ local people, though, that is far from certain. With full table casinos being proposed and built in surrounding areas in other states, many people fear if they don’t expand the casino’s abilities they will continue to lose customers, money and jobs to out of states casinos who are approving table gaming.

The addition of table gaming, such as black jack and roulette, is largely considered to increase the draw at casinos; that would increase the taxes paid as well as a chance of increasing the workforce. The more games a casino offers, the larger the chance that other areas of the operation would also expand, such as hotel rooms, restaurants, retail and other entertainment venues.

The casino industry as a whole does a good job of supplying jobs within local communities, and they are generally better paying jobs than average. In this case the facilities are already there, but it is thought by industry professionals that the expanded capabilities of the casinos would result in some expansion of employment and facilities.

The two casinos already make up the third largest source of revenue for Rhode Island behind income and sales taxes. Twin River says that if it can gain access to gaming tables for its facilities it would plan to hire and train an additional 350 people, and with the expansion some studies have shown that as many as another 300 jobs in ancillary industries, such as suppliers and vendors would be created.

Not only will this create more revenue from income tax, but the casinos themselves would be paying more revenue from the increased business. In Twin Rivers, there are no plans yet to add a hotel, spa or golf course, but the likelihood of such expansions would increase with the addition of table games.

Right now, Rhode Islanders spend more than $200 million a year across the border at Connecticut casinos, and the table games expansion would help to recapture that. Many different ballot measures in different states will be decided on November 6, and many of the questions will be answered after that.

One thing remains sure – casinos are one industry that offers consistent growth, good jobs and a large tax base for the state and cities where the casinos are located.

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