2014-05-08 / Front Page

Casino Plans Detailed

By Tom Walsh


The Newport Grand slots parlor would become a “Monte Carlo-style” boutique casino, shown here in a rendering by John Grosvenor of Northeast Collaborative Architects. The process to bring the $40-million proposal to a statewide and local referendum in November formally begins later this month with the Newport City Council. New features proposed for the refurbished building are labeled at the top. The existing slot parlor, where table games would be added if voters approve, is on the first floor on the left side of the main building. The Newport Grand slots parlor would become a “Monte Carlo-style” boutique casino, shown here in a rendering by John Grosvenor of Northeast Collaborative Architects. The process to bring the $40-million proposal to a statewide and local referendum in November formally begins later this month with the Newport City Council. New features proposed for the refurbished building are labeled at the top. The existing slot parlor, where table games would be added if voters approve, is on the first floor on the left side of the main building. Developers behind the plan to spend $40 million to transform the Newport Grand slots parlor into a “boutique” casino with table games say they will take their message to the people of Newport in an effort to gain necessary statewide and local voter approval at November’s election.

“Whoever is against us, we want to reach out to them and have a dialogue,” said Joseph R. Paolino Jr., the former Providence mayor and now a prominent commercial real estate developer. “We’ll be on top of it. We’re local investors, local residents. This will never turn into another Foxwoods. We envision a boutique casino. It won’t be any bigger than it is now. We will be very transparent and show people how we want to do it.”

Joining Paolino in the effort are Peter de Savary, a British business man who developed Carnegie Abbey in Portsmouth, and Paul G. Roiff, who owns well-regarded restaurants and hotels in Boston. Paolino said the developers have signed a purchase and sale agreement to buy the slots parlor from long-time owner Diane S. Hurley and her partners.

Paolino said he and both of his partners own homes in Newport. Indeed, Roiff now owns and is renovating Clarendon Court, the former Bellevue Avenue home of socialite Claus von Bulow. “I’m doing it to live here, not as a business,” Roiff told Newport This Week.

“If anyone wants to know what we have done in the past, the three of us have nice track records of making properties more valuable than when we found them,” Paolino said. He and de Savary developed the Brown & Howard Wharf highend condominium project.

The first hurdle facing the trio is City Council approval of a request to the General Assembly to put a table games referendum on the November ballot. The developers say they cannot realize their vision without offering table games such as blackjack and roulette. Under Rhode Island law, voters statewide, as well as those in Newport, must give the OK for table games. In 2012, a similar proposal was supported statewide but was defeated in Newport.

Paolino said there are numerous differences this time that make the current proposal better for Newport residents and a more compelling project for them to embrace. They include:

A willingness to specify as part of the referendum question that a rejuvenated casino would remain in its current location. Speculation surfaced prior to the 2012 vote that Newport Grand might be moved to Bellevue Avenue or to the waterfront. “Rumors were spread the last time that were not true. We’ll keep the waterfront and Bellevue Avenue as is,” Paolino promised. “They won’t be touched. Our address will still be 150 Kalbfus Road.”

Local investors. “We all have homes in Newport,” Paolino said.

Transparency. “We are showing people what we want to do,” he said.

Jobs. Newport Grand employees have dwindled from 225 to 175, Paolino reported. He predicted that his boutique casino with table games would add jobs.

More revenue for the city. Paolino said slot revenue has eroded in past years and that the addition of table games and other amenities can reverse that trend. “We’re going to add revenue to the City of Newport.”

The developers believe that their proposal to revitalize the existing structure, host concerts with wellknown performers, add a day spa, swimming pool, and restaurants will make the new casino more attractive to a broader audience. "A lot can be done with parts of the real estate that were never utilized,” Paolino said. He believes this will draw people to Newport in the offseason and thereby help local merchants as well as the casino. He also asserted that the current owners have cared for the building. “Building codes are up to date,” he said. “We want that infrastructure.”

“The dynamics have changed,” Paolino concluded. “As you come off the Newport Bridge you now see an unattractive building. We want to give it a Monte Carlo look. People would see something very attractive as they enter Newport.”

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