Bally’s in R.I. taking aim at Mass.
Some Bay State lawmakers eager to fire back
CASINO WARS in New England are officially starting to heat up.
The newly renamed Bally’s Twin River officially broke ground Thursday on a major expansion of its casino in Lincoln, Rhode Island, spurring nervous lawmakers in Massachusetts to push for legislation that would allow the slots parlor in Plainridge to expand its offerings to remain competitive.
At the groundbreaking in Lincoln, Gov. Daniel McKee and the leaders of the Rhode Island House and Senate gathered to celebrate the initial payoff for a deal signed into law in June. That deal saw International Game Technology pay the state $27 million and agree to maintain a workforce in Rhode Island of at least 1,100 people in return for a 20-year extension of its exclusive control of the state’s lottery. The deal also extended Bally’s hold on all casino gambling activity in the state through 2036 in return for a pledge to invest at least $100 million in its facilities.
That expansion in Lincoln includes 40,000 square feet of new gambling space and the addition of a 14,000-square-foot Korean-style spa, as well as a host of other amenities. The current facility has 150,000 square feet of gambling space.
Casino and lottery gaming represent the third-largest source of tax revenue in Rhode Island.
Lincoln, Rhode Island, is only 15 miles away from Plainville and lawmakers like Rep. Jeffrey Roy of Franklin are worried about the potential impact.
Roy said casino competition between Massachusetts and Rhode Island has been building for some time. When Plainridge opened a decade ago, Roy said, the Lincoln facility quickly expanded beyond slots into table games. Two years ago Bally’s added a small casino in Tiverton, which is just over the border from Massachusetts and about 27 miles away from Plainville. Now, Roy says, Bally’s is expanding in Lincoln.
Roy said the point of the legislation allowing Plainridge to expand into table games is not to upset the apple cart of Massachusetts gaming, which called for three casinos (only two have been approved and built) and one slots parlor.“We’re not competing with Encore in Everett or MGM in Springfield,” Roy said. “What we’re competing with is a state that is taking our jobs away.”
Roy is pushing legislation that would allow Plainridge to add 30 table games and more slots. He said the legislation also directs the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to study the impact of the Rhode Island casinos and recommend how to respond.