It’s just an idea, and one that seems to be gathering some momentum, although it is far from legislation.
Nonetheless, Rep. Joseph Trillo’s proposal for a mega casino at Quonset Point that conceivably could include an indoor amusement park and an aquarium has got North Kingstown Senator and Toll Gate High School teacher James Sheehan worried.
Last week, the sparks began to fly, with Trillo asking who has a better idea to preserve, if not enhance, revenue for the state faced with casinos in Massachusetts that promise to lure gamblers from Twin River.
“No one has an idea to bring business into the state,” Trillo said. His proposal is for a casino covering 53 acres, with 2.5 million square feet of space on a single floor. He’s talking about a $2 billion development that would dwarf Foxwoods, if developed into a four-story structure.
Trillo calls Quonset ideal for such development because the state has the land; it has the facilities to accommodate cruise ships; an airport for the jets of high rollers; and the connecting roads. His idea is not merely to attract people from the immediate area, but also well beyond Rhode Island and thereby bringing in new dollars to the region.
Trillo would like to have the state define the kind of giant casino it would like to see and the opportunities it would offer to developers and then put the project out for bid.
“If no one wants to put in the money, it’s a dead deal,” he says.
But even going that far is too far for Sheehan.
In a press release issued last week, Sheehan said, “Now, because that talk has made it into the public venue – talk radio and our local newspapers – I want to express my concerns and reservations about a large scale Foxwoods-style casino at Quonset. The commerce park has been developing well under good management and boasts thousands of jobs and it is those types of jobs that we should be seeking to draw into the park – good, well-paying, long-lasting jobs for Rhode Island workers.”
He goes on to say, “Gambling is a very unique industry and it carries with it numerous pitfalls for any host community and beyond. That is why our state constitution requires the approval of local residents before any expansion of gambling is allowed. I am confident that an overwhelming majority of residents of North Kingstown share my deep concerns about the impact that such a vast facility would have on our town.”
Trillo said he understands Sheehan is seeking to represent his constituents but he warns him, “If you eliminate the NIMBYies in North Kingstown, there are a lot who favor this.”
“If I were him [Sheehan], I would basically shut up until everything comes out,” said Trillo.
Trillo estimates a casino could generate as much as $20 million in local property taxes and that, “prematurely jumping to conclusions, he could lose his seat.”
Trillo has been working with Rep. John Carnevale on development of a casino plan. He said that Carnevale has worked with other legislators and labor to bring them aboard. Further, Trillo said he understands that the leadership is walking a tightrope on this as it faces its obligations to Twin River. Rather than having the legislative leadership espousing a world-class casino, Trillo imagines the push coming from the members.
For the state to offer development of a casino, it would need voter approval first.