Poker returning to Twin River Casino on Feb. 23

BALLY'S TWIN RIVER Lincoln Casino Resort announced Thursday a plan to restore poker tables on Feb. 23.

LINCOLN – After a three-year hiatus, poker is returning to Bally’s Twin River Lincoln Casino Resort on Feb. 23.

The news was announced on Bally’s social media channels on Thursday. Participation in poker games will remain on a “first come first serve basis” and  the poker room will be opened on a “modified basis,” according to Bally’s spokesperson Patti Doyle.

The table games were shut down in March 2020 when the state’s two casinos were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When operations partially resumed in June 2020, poker did not.

Doyle said that prior to the 2020 closing, the Lincoln casino offered 23 poker tables and now that they hope to restore the previous number of tables in two weeks. But like many hospitality businesses, hiring and retaining staff, especially trained dealers, has been a challenge.

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When played in-person, table games such as poker require sitting and communicating in close quarters, sharing playing cards and poker chips, all activities unsuited for social distancing.

“We put a lot of protocols in place,” she said. “All of that went into the decision making.”

Doyle said she has received inquiries from poker enthusiasts asking when it would return.

“I would get some calls,” she said. “We are very happy to offer this again to our committed players.”

Bally’s revenues from table games at Twin River had declined sharply during the restrictions. But according to the latest financial report issued to the R.I. Department of Revenue, table games brought in $83.9 million in fiscal year 2022, up from $51 million in 2021 but down from $121 million in 2020.

Receipts from table games, which made up approximately 15% of Twin River’s revenues before the pandemic, have been slowly improving. They took in $8.2 million in December, according to the latest monthly statement.  In Dec. 2021, that number was $6.2 million and $1.2 million in December 2020.

Combined net tax revenue collected by the state from Bally’s table games was $19.4 million in fiscal year 2022, according to department of revenue spokesperson Paul Grimaldi. This was a stark improvement from fiscal year 2020, when the state’s share was $12.9 million.

“The pandemic had a dramatic effect on casino revenues for obvious reason,” said  Grimaldi.  “The state saw a significant decline in revenue from table games, including poker, with the onset of the pandemic. Revenue has since returned to pre-pandemic trends as people became comfortable with returning to public activity.”

Combined with the planned 40,000-square-foot expansion of gaming space scheduled to be done in April, Grimaldi said the announcement is the latest example of a return to normal.

“We expect to see the positive effects from that on revenues,” he said.

Christopher Allen is a PBN staff writer. You may contact him at Allen@PBN.com

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