Rhode Island Governor Raimondo Justifies Controversial $1B IGT Lottery Accord Before Lawmakers

Posted on: September 25, 2019, 10:42h. 

Last updated on: September 25, 2019, 02:18h.

Gov. Gina Raimondo (D-RI) went before Rhode Island lawmakers Tuesday to stand up for a 20-year, $1 billion contract she’s pitching to have International Game Technology Plc continue managing the state’s lottery.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo is playing defense on a $1 billion contract with IGT. (Image: Reuters)

The agreement has consistently drawn scrutiny from politicians on both sides of the aisle, as well as Twin River Worldwide Holdings, Inc., the operator of the state’s two casinos. In a full-page advertisement published in July in the Providence Journal, the state’s most-read daily newspaper, TRWH lambasted Raimondo, saying the governor’s IGT plan is anti-competitive and potentially harmful to Ocean State taxpayers.

Twin River has expressed concern that the contract will allow IGT to cement its dominant position in Rhode Island’s gaming machine market. The casino operator says that under state law, no device maker can control more than half the machines at the state’s gaming properties, but IGT’s current piece of that pie is around 84 percent.

That percentage is likely to decline somewhat after the Rhode Island Lottery Commission said late last month it’s pulling 360 IGT machines from the Tiverton and Twin River casinos.

Throughout the increasingly contentious IGT/TRWH row, Raimondo has focused on the lottery, its importance as a revenue generator in the state, and related jobs.

There are only three companies in the country capable of operating the lottery,” said the governor in a special meeting at the state capital Tuesday. “Only one of them was founded in Rhode Island, has 1,000 jobs in Rhode Island, and is right outside this building.”

IGT’s Ocean State headquarters comes by way of the 2015 deal in which Italy-based GTECH paid $6.4 billion to acquire Las Vegas-based IGT. The Italian firm had its US corporate base in Providence and later took the IGT name.

All About Jobs

IGT has previously warned that if the 20-year deal Raimondo is pitching isn’t signed, the company cannot guarantee it will keep its Rhode Island headcount as high as it is today. In July, Twin River made a $125 million offer to run the state’s lottery, saying it believes it can keep or even expand on those 1,000 jobs.

However, Raimondo scoffed at that notion, pointing out the casino operator isn’t experienced in managing lotteries, while criticizing hedge fund ownership of some of TRWH’s stock.

Last week, TRWH announced a partnership with Camelot Lottery Solutions aimed at bolstering its Rhode Island lottery effort.

TRWH said its latest proposal is backed by a $100 million guarantee and provides for 1,100 jobs while saving “the State and its taxpayers approximately $500 million in fees, invests $75 million in development and improvements, including a new 50,000-square-foot corporate headquarters in the state, and would limit the control of the casino slot floor to the current state law of 50 percent,” according to a statement.

Heat From Both Sides

Over the course of the debate on the IGT accord, Raimondo has racked up critics from both parties. Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, also a Democrat, previously said he believes the governor negotiated the IGT pact in secrecy, and questioned whether the contract could withstand legislative inquiries.

More recently, Mattiello accused IGT and the lottery commission of having an “incestuous relationship.”

In July, the Rhode Island Republican Party filed an ethics complaint against Raimondo over the IGT contract, and the Ethics Commission said last month it’s investigating the matter.