Election defeat clouds future for Newport Grand

By Patrick Anderson
PBN Staff Writer

While prospective card dealers, drink servers and security guards were lining up at Twin River Casino’s job fair in Lincoln last week to claim one of the 350 new positions expected from the video-gambling parlor’s expansion to table games, life at Rhode Island’s other gaming site, Newport Grand, was quieter. More

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POLITICS

Election defeat clouds future for Newport Grand

COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS DARTMOUTH
NEWPORT GRAND slot parlor.

By Patrick Anderson
PBN Staff Writer

Posted 11/19/12

While prospective card dealers, drink servers and security guards were lining up at Twin River Casino’s job fair in Lincoln last week to claim one of the 350 new positions expected from the video-gambling parlor’s expansion to table games, life at Rhode Island’s other gaming site, Newport Grand, was quieter.

No one at the former jai-alai fronton was talking publicly about the election defeat that blocked Newport Grand’s own expansion plans, which would also have added live games such as roulette or blackjack to the current video offerings, or what it would mean for the business’ future.

Before the vote, Newport Grand CEO Diane Hurley had warned that with new casinos planned for Massachusetts, Newport Grand “cannot financially survive as presently constituted.”

In fiscal 2012, revenue at Newport Grand was $28.1 million, or 35 percent, less than in 2005. And that’s before new competition coming from Massachusetts and the newly expanded Twin River.

But with table games Hurley had expected to hire at least 50 new workers up front and the facility had recently removed “Slots” from its name.

Newport Grand employees last week said Hurley was on vacation and could not be reached.

At Newport City Hall, local leaders who had backed the table-games referendum were taking a wait-and-see approach to an issue that directly affects the city budget.

“Personally I am not happy that the city revenue [from property taxes and a share of gambling proceeds] could be in jeopardy, because it is not easy to replace $1 million in the budget,” said Newport Mayor Henry F. Winthrop. “But I am sure Newport Grand has a plan.”

Despite overwhelming statewide support for allowing table games at both Ocean State slot parlors and two-thirds statewide support for Newport Grand specifically, local voters rejected the referendum, 53 percent to 47 percent.

The defeat reflected a long-running aversion to casinos in Newport that supporters hoped had softened, as reflected by support from Senate President M. Teresa Paiva-Weed, D-Newport, because of the threat to state revenue posed by Massachusetts casinos.

Five of seven Newport city councilors supported the referendum, with one neutral and one opposed, Winthrop said.

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