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Rhode Island legislators look at gambling expansion

13 March 2008

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island -- As reported by the Providence Journal: "With gambling promoters dangling the promise of tens of millions of new state dollars before their eyes, lawmakers yesterday turned their attention to professional sports-betting and round-the-clock gambling at Twin River and Newport Grand as possible ways to plug the state's massive deficit.

"No votes were taken. But at a Senate committee hearing yesterday, lobbyists and executives from the state's two video-slot parlors pitched 24-hour gambling on weekends and the nights before state and federal holidays as an opportunity to raise upwards of $14.8 million annually in new state revenue.

"Twin River also sought permission to offer its customers the same kinds of 'promotional credits' — or 'free play time' — available to frequent players at full-scale casinos, amid assurances the offer "will provide a compelling reason" for gamblers here and from out-of-state who are now driving through Rhode Island to stay.

"Should the state's share drop as a result of this promotional giveaway of potential state revenue, the bill introduced by Sen. Paul Moura, D-East Providence, is written in such a way that a Twin River executive told the lawmakers the state would be 'held harmless.'

"...Meanwhile, Senate Majority Whip Dominick Ruggerio dangled the potential for '$500 million' in new state revenue as an argument for legalizing professional sports-betting, while acknowledging his revenue estimate is, at this point, only an educated guess' based on the amount wagered in Las Vegas on the Super Bowl; and the fact that any such move would require approval from Congress, even if voters here said OK..."

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