The proposed Rhode Island casino in the town of Tiverton was formally approved by local officials this week, clearing the way for construction to begin on the 77,500-square-foot casino that will be accompanied by an 84-room hotel.
The Tiverton Planning Board voted 6-1 with two abstentions on the construction blueprint. The Twin River casino will be just 400 feet south from the Rhode Island and Massachusetts border.
Rhode Island voters approved a ballot referendum three years ago to expand commercial gambling and allow a third casino to be built. Once Tiverton was targeted, local voters there backed welcoming the resort during the 2016 November elections.
Twin River is familiar to Rhode Islanders, as it owns and operates the state’s two present casinos, the Newport Grand in Newport, and Twin River Casino in Lincoln.
Twin River also operates the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi, and the Arapahoe Park parimutuel horse racetrack in Aurora, Colorado.
Twin River says its newest casino will feature 1,000 slot machines and 32 table games. It will come with a restaurant and bar, as well as entertainment space and two-level parking garage. The total area of the property is 46.6 acres, and is expected to cost $75 million.
Rhode Island levies one of the highest taxes on casino companies. While table gambling revenue is only taxed at 17 percent, net income from slots requires the house to deliver upwards of 70 percent of its hold to the state.
Rhode Island casinos send about $300 million each year to the capital. Allowing the Tiverton project to proceed is an effort to make sure the revenue doesn’t disappear to neighboring gambling states, specifically Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Rhode Island already competes with Connecticut’s Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos, which are both less than 20 miles from the Connecticut and Rhode Island border. Competition for gaming dollars is only increasing.
Massachusetts’ $950 million MGM Springfield resort and $2.4 billion Wynn Boston Harbor are both under construction, and set to respectively open in 2018 and 2019. Rhode Island officials want to make sure their citizens aren’t enticed to check out the integrated resorts.
In addition, the Mashpee Wampanoag Native Americans are trying to gain permission to construct a casino resort on 150 acres in Taunton, Massachusetts. Though the land has been taken into trust by the US Bureau of Indian Affairs, which should allow the tribe to build a Class I and II gaming facility, a federal lawsuit filed by nearby property owners is delaying the project.
The Mashpee Wampanoag people want to build a 150,000-square-foot casino with 3,000 slot machines and a 300-room luxury hotel and spa. Should it one day come to fruition, the Taunton casino would be less than a half-hour’s drive from the Twin River venue in Tiverton.
Massachusetts gaming officials are awaiting the outcome of the tribal lawsuit, as it can still authorize a third commercial casino in the southeastern part of the state. It’s delaying such authorization on oversaturation concerns.