2014-07-03 / Opinion

Revenue Sharing Is a Bad idea

To the Editor:

Some of our legislators recently announced that if gaming is expanded in Newport, the city will receive an increase in the percentage of the revenues. (Both the state and City of Newport currently receive a cut of the local gaming revenue.) This is a bad idea!

Sharing revenue with a commercial enterprise creates both dependencies and expectations. The governments become dependent on the shared revenue to cover expenses and the commercial enterprise expects the government to grant it special privileges. Can the state and city exercise their proper roles if they are beholden to the gaming industry for revenue? I do not think so. Just look at some of the recent legislative activities.

First, lawmakers allowed Twin River in Lincoln to offer lines of credit of up to $50,000 to patrons, and stipulated that no casino may place a lien on a person’s real estate as a result of such a marker. I wonder how one qualifies for such a loan and at what interest rate? If real estate is exempted from serving as collateral, what will it be? I hope the state is not underwriting these markers. Let’s give the compulsive gamblers another way to feed their habits and lose more than he/she can afford. Shame on those legislators supporting this idea. I wonder why they did it?

Second, the budget included funding, effectively $1.1 million, to boost Twin River`s marketing efforts at a time when the Lincoln gaming facility could soon face increased competition from expansion of gaming in Massachusetts. Does the state propose to assist other private business establishments facing competition from Massachusetts or do our legislators only support gaming establishments with taxpayer dollars? Why are taxpayers being asked to underwrite the operations of a failing industry? Is it because the state stands to lose revenue if Twin River is less successful? Is this the type of economic development our elected representatives think is best for Rhode Island? Shame on those who support this gift to the gaming industry. What public good is being served?

The proponents of gaming in Rhode Island should be very pleased and supportive of our legislators; because of them, gamblers can borrow money to satisfy their compulsion and the taxpayers will spend $1.1 million to encourage greater participation in gaming.

These legislative initiatives are only two examples of the unhealthy influence the gaming industry has developed over our state and local governments. Has the government’s dependency on the generated revenue made the gaming industry "too big to fail?" Should the taxpayers anticipate bailing out the gaming industry? I hope not. I hope the state and City of Newport will reject all offers of revenue sharing from a commercial enterprise.

Oh, Rhode Island, how will you put your tainted past behind you and do something worthy to attract new developing growth industries? Not by climbing into bed with the gaming industry and using taxpayer dollars to support gaming, another failing entertainment industry. Remember 38 Studios. Invest in education, infrastructure and clean government. John Drotos


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