tribe unveil new casino plan
by the The Providence Journal, R.I.
WARWICK, Rhode Island - Harrah's Entertainment rolled out
its most detailed proposal yet for a casino in Rhode Island
yesterday, displaying plans for a sleek glass-and-stone design
on heavily landscaped land.
$650-million development, in an 85-acre industrial park, would
include stately pools, a 55,000-square-foot convention center
and a 1,500-seat entertainment hall.
plan needs legislative approval and support from voters in the
host town and in a statewide referendum. Legislation for the
casino has not yet been introduced.
Las Vegas company, working with the Narragansett Indian Tribe,
has also expanded its vision for future development on the site,
reacting to a $700-million expansion project announced last
month at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Conn., just
11 miles from Rhode Island.
Since Harrah's first proposed a casino in Rhode Island three
years ago, the Mohegan Sun, in Montville, Conn., completed a
$1.1-billion expansion. And in Massachusetts, a change in political
leadership has increased the possibility for slot-machine gambling
there, Rep. Timothy A. Williamson, D-West Warwick, who will
sponsor the Rhode Island casino bill, said yesterday.
single most important element is breaking the Connecticut monopoly,"
Jan Jones, Harrah's senior vice president of government relations,
said yesterday. "Eastern Connecticut has blossomed as a
tourist destination and Rhode Island has fallen far behind."
said yesterday it controls all 85 acres, off Route 95, on which
it hopes to build a "destination resort" with restaurants,
a spa, shops, a 500-room hotel, a 2,500-space parking garage
and surface parking for 2,750 cars.
new artist's rendering differs starkly from a previous portrait,
which showed a tall black tower flanked by fountains and a grassy
expanse. The revised picture emphasizes tall trees, and two
azure glass buildings reflecting a bright sky.
casino would house 115,000 square feet of gambling space, with
3,000 slot machines and 100 table games.
But many details remain a mystery, including the specific height
of the proposed 19-story hotel, plans for a new Route 95 interchange,
and a site plan.
gathered yesterday at the news conference, held at the new casino
headquarters on Main Street, where they exchanged handshakes
and "here-we-are-again" greetings.
and Harrah's officials predicted the new legislation would be
acceptable to the state Supreme Court; the court rejected last
year's bill as unconstitutional, after it passed the House and
Senate and survived Governor Carcieri's veto.
"It's a very good day for the tribe," said Matthew
Thomas, chief sachem of the Narragansetts, whose tribe would
receive job opportunities and a $20-million payout in the casino's
has also pledged $14.7 million to West Warwick in its first
year, money the town needs to pave roads, repair municipal buildings
and build a new senior center, said Town Council President Jeanne-Marie
need help," she said yesterday. "Our town buildings
are being neglected."
has also promised a $100-million license fee and a revenue-sharing
agreement with the state, and a two-year guarantee to cover
any state revenue decline from lost business at Lincoln Park
and Newport Grand. The company insists the West Warwick casino
would have little impact on its two Rhode Island competitors,
which generate huge revenue for the state.
The project, Harrah's said, would create 3,015 construction
jobs, and the casino would employ 3,184 people. The company
says it would hire union laborers, and rely heavily on local
merchants for supplies and services. The casino would also siphon
money streaming into Connecticut from Massachusetts and Rhode
Island, said Jones, the Harrah's executive. Rhode Island and
Massachusetts residents spent $1 billion at Foxwoods and Mohegan
Sun last year, she said, money that could have helped support
public services here.
said, 200 Rhode Island businesses held conventions and meetings
at Foxwoods. "They're driving right by the site every trip
they make to Connecticut," she said.
The company is hoping for swift legislative approval, and a
special election in November. But the bill's prospects in the
General Assembly are uncertain.
Neal, Carcieri's spokesman, said yesterday the governor would
again veto any casino bill this year. The casino, he said, would
breed corruption, undercut state revenues, and "destroy
nearby businesses." And legislation for the casino, which
would now be operated by the state Lottery Commission, might
have to survive another legal challenge.
opponents, and the Rhode Island Hospitality and Tourism Association,
are also forecasting grim fallout from the gambling project.
Kempe, the association spokeswoman, said the casino could spark
closings statewide among small hotels, restaurants, and retail
outlets; undercut the Dunkin' Donuts Center and the taxpayer-subsidized
Rhode Island Convention Center; and compete with established
tourist destinations, such as the Newport mansions.
local restaurants can't compete with the deep discounts the
casinos will give," Kempe said. "They're not going
to be spending those dollars in our local restaurants and entertainment
Providence Performing Arts Center, which sells 500,000 tickets
annually, might close after 27 years in operation, shuttering
a 77-year-old historic building restored with $40 million in
state, federal, and local money, according to its president,
kind of like Dracula -- it doesn't go away," Singleton
said of the casino proposal. "If the shows go there, they
Warwick Citizens Against The Casino, a community group, said
the casino would bring heavy traffic to local side streets,
and shine bright lights all night into neighboring homes.
quality of life is going to get impacted," said Frank Lombardo,
the group's vice president. "The Indians and Harrah's say
they won't cut through our neighborhoods. Yeah, right."