Rep. Joseph Trillo is thinking big…really big for Little Rhody.
With talk of a casino at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro and Foxwoods to our south, Trillo says whatever revenues the state now gets from Twin River and Newport are going to be sucked right out of state coffers.
So the Warwick legislator thinks that big is not only better, but it could also be a generator of thousands of jobs while bringing in “new dollars” to the state, maybe as much as $500 million to $600 million.
Trillo first suggested a super casino that among other attractions could include an indoor water park or amusement park in June. It didn’t get much attention then, but since Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots is openly considering a casino at Foxboro, Trillo’s suggestion is suddenly attracting attention.
His basic proposal is to use about 80 Quonset Point acres for a casino on the water that could accommodate cruise ships; have easy access to the Quonset airfield for the “high rollers” who could fly in; have rail service; have easy highway access and already has the capacity to handle sewer and utility requirements. He’s thinking of a $2 billion investment.
Those are the basics, but once Trillo gets started he envisions no end of possibilities. He notes the Quonset golf course is nearby. And then, he adds, there could be shuttle boat service to Newport. There’s space for mega yachts as well as deep water tie-ups for cruise ships. Trillo imagines spin off businesses for the servicing of corporate jets and all those yachts.
“This would be a world class casino, a super facility with a lot of bells and whistles. We’ve got the infrastructure in place to do it,” he said yesterday. “There is nothing like this.”
Trillo sees the casino being located on land currently being leased for the storage of cars arriving here by carrier ships. He thinks that operation that generates $1.5 million a year could be easily relocated.
Trillo doesn’t have studies to back his opinion, but he believes such a huge attraction would draw people from up and down the East Coast, if not from across country and abroad. He thinks as much as 80 percent of the clientele could be from outside New England, meaning this would not be a facility dependent on taking a bigger portion of the gaming pie from existing operations.
Nonetheless, he says Rhode Island can’t waste time and the discussion needs to start “if it’s not going to be too late.”
Trillo said he has received favorable feedback from Senator Frank Ciccone III and that they plan to visit Quonset later this week to tour the area and talk with development officials there. Ciccone could not be reached for comment.
Representative Frank Ferri went wide-eyed when he heard mention of a Quonset Casino on Monday.
“This is the first I’m hearing of it,” he said.
Although Ferri is personally against casinos, he believes a Quonset casino would be great for Rhode Island.
“I never liked the idea of gambling,” he said. “Casinos never make money because people win, they make money because people lose. But from the state point of view, it’s an idea we should look into.”
In addition to the Quonset idea, Ferri is in support of adding gaming tables to Twin River.
“They say Twin River technically isn’t a casino because it doesn’t have table games. But it is a casino. There should be table games there. There’s a market for it.”
The Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce said they haven’t yet taken a position on expanding gaming in Rhode Island. According to the Chamber’s spokes woman, Bethany Costello, it won’t be until a proposal reaches the legislature that they’ll form their opinion.
Trillo hasn’t spoken yet with the governor and wants to run the idea by Keith Stokes, director of the state Economic Development Corporation. Melissa Chambers, communications coordinator for the EDC, said yesterday that Stokes was unable to comment on the matter, calling it a “policy” issue and therefore a topic for the Governor. As of press time, the Governor was unavailable for comment.
“We’re going to get slaughtered,” Trillo predicted if the state fails to act proactively to casino ventures in Massachusetts.
Trillo’s proposal would require an amendment to the state’s constitution, which he believes could be on next year’s ballot. He suggested that once the state has a plan for a casino that it be placed out for bid.
“Let’s not have a back room deal. That’s what killed West Warwick,” he said.
With reports from Kim Kalunian