While many parts of the United States have had casinos for decades, New England is somewhat new to the establishment of brick and mortar gambling locations. The town of Tiverton, Rhode Island has been contemplating the construction of a new casino for some time now, and it has been the source of a lot of controversy. Despite this, the casino project is still moving forward.
On November 8th, there were statewide and local ballot questions that basically asked whether or not citizens approve of or disapprove of the plan to build a casino close to the Massachusetts border. As for the statewide ballot question, the resounding response was that a large majority of citizens approved the casino. As for the local results, the town of 16,000 approved the casino plans by little more than 300 votes. So, to put it simply, there is a fairly rigid division amongst Tiverton residents. Local church leaders have been the most vocal opponents to the plans, citing an increase in gambling addiction as the number one reason a casino should not be erected in their town.
Still, with both ballot questions having been approved, the project is now in the hands of local town planners. So long as they approve the proposed site (which is just a few hundred yards from the Massachusetts border) the casino’s construction will be underway before Spring. Rhode Island is already home to 2 casinos, so it is not like the state, as a whole, is just being introduced to the idea of gambling.
In the whole discussion regarding the pros and cons of a Tiverton casino, the state of Connecticut has been there to provide insight born of experience. Connecticut has had two casinos since the 1990s, and from the early 90s to today revenues have been on an almost consistent decline. In the early days, Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods casinos would combine to produce more than $300 million for the state of Connecticut. Nowadays, however, the contributions from these two casinos is moving further and further downward. In fact, by 2021 the state of Connecticut predicts that the money provided to the state by these two casinos will be below $200 million.
A former Connecticut congressman weighed in on the proposed Tiverton casino and quite bluntly made it clear that these types of ideas always sound better in theory than they prove to be in practice. According to the Taunton Gazette, former US representative Bob Steele commented on the situation by saying, “The fact is there is no evidence that casino expansion in any way, on a longer-term basis, helps a local economy. On the way up everybody cheers, ‘Look at this money!’
Still, the negative commentary from surrounding states seems to not be getting in the way of Tiverton’s casino. We are still a ways away from anyone actually being able to play slots and other games at the site, but that may change in the very near future. We will be keeping an eye on this story as it develops throughout 2017 and beyond