Almond: Lincoln will wait and see on sports betting
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