Twin River says Raimondo’s chief of staff threatened company over IGT deal

MARC CRISAFULLI, president of Rhode Island operations for Twin River alleged in a letter to the R.I. Senate that Gina M. Raimondo's Chief of Staff Brett Smiley threatened Twin River with consequences if it did not accept the proposed IGT lottery extension. / PBN FILE PHOTO/MICHAEL SALERNO
MARC CRISAFULLI, president of Rhode Island operations for Twin River, says in a letter to the R.I. Senate that Gina M. Raimondo's chief of staff, Brett Smiley, threatened Twin River with consequences if it did not accept the proposed IGT lottery extension. / PBN FILE PHOTO/MICHAEL SALERNO

PROVIDENCE – Twin River Worldwide Holdings Inc. has released a letter written by Twin River Executive Vice President Marc Crisafulli that claims Gov. Gina M. Raimondo’s chief of staff, Brett Smiley, threatened the company with “consequences” if they did not keep quiet on the proposed lottery contract for International Game Technology PLC.

Crisafulli sent the letter originally to Sen. William J. Conley Jr., chairman of the state Senate Committee on Finance. Crisafulli had previously mentioned that an aide had threatened him but had declined to reveal the identity.

The allegation comes amid a public battle between Twin River and IGT for the highly lucrative state lottery contract. The governor’s office has come out in favor of extending IGT’s long-term deal, while Twin River has lobbied to take over the contract in partnership with IGT’s rivals in the business.

Both companies have hired lobbyists to fight for the contact and the proposed IGT deal is currently being reviewed by committees in both the state House and Senate.

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Crisafulli said in the letter, “[Smiley] explained to me the details of the IGT legislation, including last-minute changes that were made around the video lottery terminals. He asked me not to go scorched earth on the deal. He informed me Twin River would not receive anything directly regarding VLTs. He then stated that the broader relationship between Twin River and the state is important. They are our regulator, they know we need their help because of the leverage ratio to grow our business, and they want to be helpful, but if we oppose the IGT deal they will not be cooperative with us.”

Crisafulli then added, “Mr. Smiley’s message was crystal clear: If Twin River opposed the IGT legislation which was introduce that day, we would suffer regulatory consequences with the state.”

Raimondo admonished Twin River Wednesday in front of reporters following the first meeting of the R.I. Vaping Advisory Committee, denying the allegations, WJAR-TV NBC 10 reported. She called the company out for their behavior during the contract process and called the company’s previous violations of a regulatory agreement, “very serious,” adding that she is going to continue to hold the company accountable.

She called the allegations concerning Smiley “baseless and untrue.”

Smiley also refuted the claim Wednesday in a statement. “I spoke with Mr. Crisafulli several times over many weeks and never once made a threat,” he said. “That is not how I conduct myself. The day the legislation was introduced, I gave him a courtesy call to let him know that the General Assembly was moving forward, but that the proposal did not include Twin River getting VLTs. He was not happy with that news and it was a tense call. I also told him the State’s broader relationship with Twin River is important and I hope we’ll find other ways to help them grow their business. It’s unfortunate that they would make this accusation months later at the conclusion of the public hearings.”

House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello issued a statement on the allegations, signaling concern over the claims.

“The House is deeply troubled by the revelations that the governor’s Chief of Staff, Brett Smiley, threatened Twin River’s Executive Vice President, Marc Crisafulli, with regulatory retaliation should they oppose the IGT contract extension. The regulatory system in Rhode Island has been seen as a barrier to business and economic development for many years. Political threats of retaliation at the highest level of government coming directly from the governor’s office should not be tolerated.”

Chris Bergenheim is the PBN web editor. You may reach him at Bergenheim@PBN.com.

This story has been updated to include a statement from Brett Smiley.

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