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Anti-Casino Advocates to Address City Council

Citizens Concerned About Casino Gambling will address the City Council tonight in an effort to prevent a proposed deal to turn Newport Grand into a full-fledged casino with table games.

The President of Citizens Concerned About Casino Gambling is expected to address the City Council tonight to argue that proposed plans from a group of state investors to turn Newport Grand into a full-blown casino would be a detriment to the city.

Rev. Eugene J. McKenna, president of the group, will likely read from a letter attached to the council's docket that reminds the council that voters already rejected a casino referendum in 2012 and "it's unfair to ignore that vote and ask the electorate to vote once again."

The casino proposal, backed by former Providence Mayor Joe Paolino and a group of other investors with familiar names to Newporters, requires a public OK through a referendum.

Statewide voters in 2012 did reject table games at Newport Grand, but approved them for Twin River in Lincoln.

But in Newport, "the only thing that Newporters ever voted in favor of in their fair city was the introduction of gambling on jai lai games," McKenna wrote. "It's the Rhode Island General Assembly that allowed the sport of jai lai to cease and the other forms of gambling to happen at Newport Grand such as slots."

Other points McKenna will raise include:

  • The casino could be destructive for tourism and the development of an "innovation hub" which has received broad local and state support
  • Casino revenue is already in the decline.
  • Casinos with all-inclusive amenities tend to absorb tourism dollars since they tend to stay on the premises
  • Casino gambling causes social issues like suicide, bankruptcies, problem marriages, embezzlement and fraud.
  • Casino gambling doesn't complement anything Newport is promoting to improve itself.
The proposed casino would drastically transform the current building, turning it into a luxury destination reminiscent of grand casinos in Monte Carlo.

Paolino and the investors reached a deal to buy the Newport Grand last week. 

Paolino and Peter de Savary — the same de Savary who just sold Merrillton Mansion in Newport for $8.76 million — along with Paul Roiff, released sketches from Northeast Collaborative Architects that depict a radically different looking structure than the existing Newport Grand, which could be mistaken for a chain furniture store if not for the garish "SLOTS" adorning the front facade.

In an interview, Paolino said he envisions a jewel of a structure greeting tourists and visitors to Newport after they come off the bridge.

"We have a concern not just as investors, but as neighbors," Paolino said in a telephone interview. "The last thing we want to see is Donald Trump or some Las Vegas group coming in here with neon signs and changing the character of the city. Our interest is not to move it or make it into a Las Vegas style casino, but more of a boutique look," he said. "It would look a lot nicer as a Monte Carlo-style casino and not a bunch of neon signs."

The City Council meets tonight at 6:30 p.m. in Newport City Hall.
Brew May 14, 2014 at 08:33 PM
The first thing people see coming into newport is waste management and the Viking tours garage, uhaul, and tow truck garages, all of which are preferable to a soul-sucking crime-attracting, deeply questionable monstrosity. I've always thought the island lacked a comprehensive family-friendly complex. Something like a roller-skating/bowling alley/batting cage/mini-golf/go-cart/ rock-wall/laser tag/arcade type thing. Guess what? ISLAND CITIZENS WOULD BE WELCOME!!!! Even the children! And it would bring jobs! And tourist dollars! Yes, it's true, some people do get addicted to rock-climbing and batting cages (ok maybe just me) but it's good wholesome fun for all ages. If you're honest about wanting to improve the quality of life on the island than honestly improve it. Don't put more money into the pockets of people who don't give a f**k about you or your family or your community.
A.N. May 14, 2014 at 08:43 PM
Right on Brew! I'm with ya buddy.
George Costanza May 14, 2014 at 10:07 PM
I like casinos though I rarely go to them. "SLOTS" isn't a casino. SLOTS is a high school gymnasium with a bar that only serves stale pretzels and bud light, an Waffle House menu at the restaurant, a loyal customer base that chain smokes Doral Cigarettes and is on their 3rd congested artery surgery, and a parking lot with an inexplicably numerous number of parking spaces. SLOTS is a circus freak show. Paolino has never run a casino before and $30 mil won't turn "SLOTS" into an attraction worth going to. Face it, a small scale stand alone Casino in the arm-pit of the Newport Bridge is unlikely to succeed. It has been dying a slow death. Whats also amazing is that Mayor Winthrop ignores the voters decision two years ago and appears to be aiming to push ahead with another referendum. Dont be surprised if Paolino surprises us by saying he lost his financial backing for a casino and instead opts to build a huge subsidized housing project, like the one across the street that was built for $17 mil and recently sold for $44 mil
Bob May 14, 2014 at 10:11 PM
Cant' wait till they defeat this and within a year it goes belly up...no more revenue for the clowns on Smith Hill....it should coincide with the Casinos going up in Mass....Newport and Twin River are going to look like Downtown Providence....stinking cesspool of decay....and then everybody in Newport and Lincoln will go...what dahhhh...what happened....
The Shill May 15, 2014 at 06:33 AM
Casino gambling as a tax on the stupid.

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