PROVIDENCE – On Wednesday, June 6, 2012, RIPEC will release comments on the impact of the proposed legislation regarding the terms and conditions between the state and the two Rhode Island facilities, authorizing the expansion of table games. The report outlines the current structure of gaming in Rhode Island, as well as the effect gaming in Massachusetts will have on the Ocean State, with, and without table games. Additionally, the report examines the impact the current proposed legislation will have on the operators of Twin River and Newport Grand, and on state revenues.
Casino gaming in the commonwealth of Massachusetts – under any scenario – will likely negatively impact both revenues for the casino operators in Rhode Island, and the state of Rhode Island itself. It is clear that the state can no longer rely on gaming revenues to support the same share of government services once casinos open in Massachusetts. Deliberation of the proposed legislation should examine whether the bills provide the operators of Twin River and Newport Grand the opportunity to meet the challenges of increased cross-border competition. How the state sets its tax rate and the share retained by the casinos has an effect beyond gaming’s contribution to general revenues. The structure of the agreement will also determine the viability of Twin River and Newport Grand, and whether the two institutions will continue to fully contribute to the Rhode Island economy.
Rhode Island must take a proactive approach with regard to its economic future. The state can ill-afford to jeopardize the survival of the two facilities by imposing an unsustainable effective tax rate that simply boosts revenues in the short-term, while ignoring long-term implications. The state must also take the projected revenue losses into account when evaluating budgetary actions that would increase expenditures without a sustainable revenue source to support them in the out-years. Thoughtful actions taken by the state today will allow Rhode Island to direct its own future instead of reacting to events beyond its control.