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State Increases Revenue Estimate for Twin River-Tiverton and Sports Gambling Enters the Picture

Another $60,000 in gambling revenue now estimated for Tiverton; sports betting may add hundreds of thousands more.

Twin River Gambling Revenue

Every May and November, state budget officials and other experts gather together to estimate government revenue for the current and upcoming years.  The Revenue Estimating Conference reviews departmental estimates as well as broad economic trends.

In the case of the Twin River casino scheduled to open this autumn in Tiverton, the conference has been breaking down revenue by the type of gambling.  According to State Budget Office Executive Director Thomas Mullaney, last November, the conference estimated that total revenue from video lottery terminals (VLT) would be $66.4 million, while the revenue from table games would be $11.7 million.  The Town of Tiverton will receive 1.45% of VLT revenue and 1% of table game revenue generated at its location.  (A $3 million minimum should kick in next year, the first full year of operation.)

When the state Division of Lottery estimated Tiverton’s expected take from the Twin River casino in March, officials estimated a September opening.  Therefore, they attributed 10 months of the VLT revenue to Tiverton (with the other two months going to Newport), for a total of $802,333.  At the time, they had an updated table game revenue estimate of $14.6 million, yielding $146,250 for Tiverton.  Thus, the state’s estimate for Tiverton, which has been used for Budget #2 on the FTR ballot (the 2.9% decrease), was $948,583.

Now, with the May Revenue Estimating Conference complete, Mullaney tells Tiverton Fact Check that the estimate for total VLT revenue is actually $71.4 million.  Of that, Tiverton will receive $862,750, for a total take of $1,009,000 — a 10% increase from the November conference and a 6% increase from the estimate used for Budget #2.

That extra $60,000 will certainly help with any budget shortfalls Tiverton may face.  More importantly, though, it shows the state’s outlook for the casino’s opening to be improving.  Six months closer to opening day, and state officials are more optimistic, not less.

Much of the conversation around this year’s competing budgets has been their respective estimates of gambling revenue.  Budget #2 uses the state’s estimate, while Budget #1 uses a little bit less ($948,583 versus $786,840).  That conversation would have more urgency if the state were showing signs of worry about the progress of construction rather than signs of encouragement.

Sports Gambling Enters the Picture

Also this week, the United States Supreme Court “struck down a 1992 federal law… that effectively banned commercial sports betting in most states,” as a New York Times article put it.  Expecting this outcome, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo had already included a provision in her proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year suggesting that referendum votes across the state and in Lincoln and Tiverton had already provided authority for the state to conduct sports betting.  She estimated $23.5 million for the state from this source.

However, no language yet exists describing whether this betting would count as a VLT, table game, or something else.  Therefore, although Rhode Island is apparently planning to allow only in-person betting, probably at the two Twin River locations, how much the host communities would receive from these transactions is not yet known.  State officials are coy on the matter, even on the way in which the $23.5 million estimate was calculated, but it is clear that negotiations are underway.

Residents should encourage Tiverton’s elected representatives and senators in the General Assembly to negotiate the best deal possible for the town.  Some hundreds of thousands of more dollars may be on the table for Tiverton’s next fiscal year.

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Justin Katz

Justin Katz is a writer and researcher focusing on Rhode Island policy and politics. For more about Justin, see our About page. justin@justinkatz.com (401) 835-7156.

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