2014-05-08 / Around Town

Casino Plan 'Needs Serious Consideration'

Although he cautions that he does not yet have a ”complete pulse” of the City Council on developers' latest proposal to add table games and spend $40 million to upgrade the Newport Grand slots parlor, Mayor Henry F. Winthrop said he believes city residents “have a right to make a choice.”

Winthrop, who also serves as council chairman, said he still “has a little bit more work to do” on the issue. But he also said that with competition coming soon from new casinos in nearby Massachusetts, the city has a lot to lose if Newport Grand were to cease to exist.

“This is about much more than 35 table games,” Winthrop maintained. “This is an economic development project that needs serious consideration.”

For the venture to move forward, the City Council must approve a request to the General Assembly to put a table games referendum on the November ballot. The question must then be endorsed by both statewide and Newport voters. In 2012, such a referendum was approved statewide with 67 percent of the vote. Newport voters, however, rejected the idea 53 percent to 46 percent.

Winthrop said the matter will likely be considered by the council at its May 28 meeting.

He echoed former Providence Mayor Joseph R. Paolino Jr., one of three developers seeking to acquire Newport Grand, provided that table games get the necessary voter approval in November.

“Because there is such a substantial difference from the last proposal, voters should get a chance to weigh in on it,” Winthrop said. He said the cost to the city were Newport Grand to close would be about $1 million annually in taxes, plus the city’s share of slot revenues. He added that necessary permits to upgrade the facility as planned could also gain the city about $750,000.

Winthrop said Paolino “is an honorable guy. Everything he does is a top-shelf project. All three partners have wonderful development records.”

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