Rhode Island Republicans Demand Independent Look at Twin River, IGT Lottery Proposals

Posted on: October 9, 2019, 10:35h. 

Last updated on: October 9, 2019, 12:10h.

Rhode Island Republicans are calling for an independent review of lottery proposals submitted by International Game Technology Plc (IGT) and Twin River Worldwide Holdings, Inc. (TRWH), adding another chapter to the recent friction between the two gaming companies.

Rhode Island House Minority Leader Blake Filippi wants an independent review of competing lottery deals. (Image: Providence Journal)

In part, the request for an unbiased glance at the companies’ lottery plans stems from controversy swirling around a $1 billion, 20-year contract with IGT that Gov. Gina Raimondo (D-RI) has been pushing. That deal has been met with skepticism on multiple fronts, including policymakers within her own party.

TRWH, the operator of Rhode Island’s two casinos, has lambasted Raimondo and the IGT pact, saying it’s anti-competitive and bad for the state’s taxpayers. The governor has defended the accord, saying there are only a small amount of companies in the world that can run lotteries, of which IGT is one, and that the jobs created and revenue generated by the state’s lottery are too important to jeopardize.

Earlier this year, Twin River pitched a $125 million plan to manage Rhode Island’s lottery, an effort that was immediately rebuffed by Raimondo, with the governor questioning the company’s lack of expertise in lotto management, and hedge fund ownership of TWRH stock.

We have learned much over the past few weeks,” said Rep. Blake Filippi, the House minority leader,” reports the Providence Journal. “We need to get this right. The future of gaming revenues is far too important to rush through when there is such conflicting testimony from the Administration, IGT and Twin River.”

Led by Filippi, Rhode Island House Republicans are pushing for an independent review of the dueling lottery proposals, which would be funded by former Hasbro CEO Alan Hassenfeld. The toy maker is based in the Ocean State.

Time Isn’t An Issue

Rhode Island lawmakers can afford to be pragmatic in their considerations of the lottery contracts, because the state’s current agreement with IGT doesn’t expire until 2023. Lottery sales are the state’s third-largest revenue generator.

A vital piece of the puzzle is jobs. IGT employs about 1,100 Rhode Island residents in lottery and gaming services, a figure the company has said it cannot afford to keep if the aforementioned 20-year deal isn’t ratified.

In its proposal to Raimondo, TRWH said that if it’s chosen to run the lottery, it can retain those jobs or even expand on that number. But details are sparse regarding exactly how the company plans to accomplish that objective.

Some Bipartisan Support

Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, a Democrat, has previously questioned Raimondo’s dealings with IGT, and doesn’t appear to be standing in the way of Filippi’s call for an independent review.

“Leader Filippi has suggested that an independent study with private funds be conducted on the IGT contract extension and Twin River’s counter proposal,” said Mattiello in the Journal. “Leader Filippi can do what he deems appropriate, since it will not involve any taxpayer monies.”

Rhode Island lawmakers have already held two hearings on the lottery matter, and at least three more are scheduled for the coming months.