Al­mond: Lin­coln will wait and see on sports bet­ting

Woonsocket Call - - FRONT PAGE - By JOSEPH B. NADEAU jnadeau@woonsock­et­call.com

LIN­COLN – Sports bet­ting may be com­ing to Rhode Is­land, but how that will af­fect the towns of Lin­coln and Tiver­ton where casino gam­ing is al­ready al­lowed re­mains to be seen, Town Ad­min­is­tra­tor T. Joseph Al­mond said on Tues­day.

Rhode Is­land be­gan to con­sider its op­tions in tap­ping into the new sources of gam­ing rev­enue af­ter the U.S. Supreme Court on Mon­day over­turned a prior rul­ing and paved the way for states to de­cide if they wished to al­low gam­bling on pro­fes­sional and ama­teur sports games.

How that comes about is the ques­tion for Lin­coln and Tiver­ton which have al­ready re­ceived voter ap­proval to al­low casino gam­ing at fa­cil­i­ties run by Twin River Man­age­ment Group, the par­ent com­pany of Twin River at 100 Twin River Road.

It is also a com­pli­cated ques­tion given how casino gam­bling was in- sti­tuted at Twin River, the for­mer Lin­coln Park grey­hound rac­ing- and be­fore that horse rac­ing track in North­ern Rhode Is­land.

Al­mond said that a bill in­tro­duced in the state Sen­ate and be­ing re­viewed by joint com­mit­tees on Tues­day ap­peared to have been cre­ated on the premise that no fur­ther voter ap­proval will be re­quired to im­ple­ment a new op­tion of sports bet­ting at Twin River’s fa­cil­i­ties since that level of gam­ing could be cov­ered by the voter ap­provals given in re­cent elec­tions au­tho­riz­ing ex­panded gam­ing in Lin­coln and for Twin River’s planned move of its video slots oper­a­tion at New­port Grand to a full-fledged casino now un­der con­struc­tion in Tiver­ton.

“We have very lit­tle in­for­ma­tion at this time,” Al­mond said while ex­plain­ing that he had not yet been able to se­cure a full read on what the state was plan­ning through the pro­posed leg­is­la­tion.

“A bill was in­tro­duced through the Sen­ate to­day but I haven’t seen it yet,” Al­mond said.

When the Tiver­ton ex­pan­sion ques­tion was raised in the past elec­tion, Al­mond said vot­ers in that com­mu­nity and the rest, like Lin­coln statewide, all agreed to al­low the pro­posed cre­ation of the new casino. But whether that vote also cov­ered the new op­tion of sports bet­ting, a fed­eral Class III gam­ing op­tion like casino gam­ing, is the ques­tion still to be an­swered, he said.

And for Lin­coln, which was given a share of video ter­mi­nal gam­ing rev­enues when the state added a video ter­mi­nal gam­ing (VLTs) op­tion to its Rhode Is­land Lot­tery sys­tem years ago, an­other ques­tion need­ing an an­swer is whether the town will again ben­e­fit from a share of the new gam­ing rev­enues.

The orig­i­nal agree­ment with the state gave Lin­coln a 1.45 per­cent share of pro­ceeds from VLTs at Twin River and when the casino won lo­cal and state voter ap­proval to ex­pand into ta­ble casino games, Lin­coln also gained a 1 per­cent share of those pro­ceeds.

Twin River in Lin­coln to­day is a com­pletely re­con­structed 162,000-square-foot casino and en­ter­tain­ment com­plex on the grounds of the old Lin­coln Park and is cur­rently in the process of adding a new ho­tel as a wing off the casino. The town se­cures ap­prox­i­mately $7.4 mil­lion to $7.6 mil­lion an­nu­ally in VLT and live ta­ble gam­ing rev­enues from Twin River as well as ad­di­tional an­nual prop­erty tax rev­enues, ac­cord­ing to Al­mond.

Al­mond said Gov. Gina Rai­mondo has pro­jected the new gam­ing op­tion could pro­vide the state with an ad­di­tional $23 mil­lion in gam­bling rev­enues over nine months and if the cur­rent for­mula

for Lin­coln’s share of ta­ble gam­ing were to be ap­plied, the town would see a po­ten­tial 1 per­cent of the state’s an­nual sports bet­ting pro­ceeds from Twin River’s Lin­coln op­er­a­tions.

The state con­sti­tu­tion does state that there has to be voter ap­proval for any ex­pan­sion of gam­bling be­yond the Rhode Is­land Lot­tery and Al­mond said he has al­ready asked for the town’s le­gal con­sul­tants to re­view whether that ap­proval has al­ready been granted as the state ap­pears to be stat­ing.

The Town of Tiver­ton wants to know the same thing, Al­mond noted, while point­ing out he has had con­ver­sa­tions with that com­mu­nity’s ad­min­is­tra­tion as well.

Af­ter de­ter­min­ing whether the prior votes in Tiver­ton and Lin­coln did grant ap­proval for ex­pan­sion into the new gam­ing op­tion, the next ques­tion to be re­solved, Al­mond said, will be, “if it does, does it give them a share of the new gam­ing rev­enue go­ing for­ward.”

For now, Al­mond said he would like to see Lin­coln be pa­tient and lis­ten for a re­sponse from the state as to how it views the new gam­ing de­vel­op­ments.

“We want to be pa­tient be­cause the state has been a good part­ner with the town and so we want to wait and see what is pro­posed,” he said.

Ul­ti­mately, Al­mond said only the town coun­cil can ac­cept what­ever pro­posal the state comes up with, and that will be a de­ci­sion to be made in the fu­ture.

“We are still like ev­ery­body else wait­ing to get a clear un­der­stand­ing of what be­ing pro­posed,” Al­mond said. “If in fact Lin­coln vot­ers did ap­prove a ref­er­en­dum with this type of gam­bling, then the ques­tion is did they ap­prove this type of gam­ing to be a part of the cur­rent shar­ing pack­age,” he said.

“We don’t know that yet,” Al­mond added.

T. Joseph Al­mond

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