2014-05-15 / Front Page

Debate on Casino Heats Up

By Barry Bridges

Although the Newport City Council will not turn its full attention to casino gambling until its May 28 meeting, councilors were given a preview at their session on Wednesday, May 14 as to some residents’ strong feelings against the proposal by developers to transform the Newport Grand slots parlor into a boutique casino with table games.

Before such a plan can come to fruition, statewide and local voter approval is required. To get the issue on the November ballot, however, first requires a resolution from the City Council to that effect. Thus, all eyes are on council members as they consider whether to ask the legislature to give voters a say in the matter.

The Rev. Eugene McKenna, speaking on behalf of Citizens Concerned About Casino Gambling, presented a letter outlining the group’s objections. One of his main points was that local voters rejected a similar referendum in 2012. “The issue was seriously vetted then, and we believe the people of Newport have already decided,” he said. “It’s unfair to come back two years later with the same issues and start all over again. You should respect the earlier vote.” He also worries about relinquishing local autonomy to control by the state.

Several residents took the podium with additional arguments. One person thought that the proliferation of casinos on the East Coast was slowly sounding the death knell of the industry. Newporter Roland Chase reviewed the history of the present facility and maintained that promises made by developers could not be trusted.

Council members were mostly circumspect in their comments and seemed to take the remarks under advisement until the matter is brought up for full debate at the end of the month.

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