To the Editor:
In light of talk that has sprung up concerning a possible large-scale casino at Quonset Point, I write to share with you my concerns and many questions about this ill-conceived idea.
I want to make it clear that our state needs to keep Twin River as competitive as possible with its anticipated rival casinos in MA. Given our state's dependency on the income generated by state-sponsored gambling, we have little choice in this matter. However, locating a large-scale destination casino at the Quonset Commerce Park would be a bad fit for Quonset as well as the host community. Specifically, such a casino would have a detrimental effect on the thriving and growing businesses at the park, and most likely would be opposed by the host community of North Kingstown.
Quonset Point/Davisville is a Rhode Island jewel. This very successful business park boasts 8,800 jobs at 168 companies, including the eighth largest auto port in North America and such notable manufacturers as Toray and Electric Boat. I believe placing a casino in the park would jeopardize continued business growth there. Indeed, the largest single parcel of land at the park is a mere 62 acres, hardly adequate for a full-scale destination casino compared to Foxwoods (145 acres), Mohegan Sun (188 acres) or even Twin River (149 acres). Accordingly, to build a destination resort casino, Quonset would have to make room in the park by seizing land and businesses resulting in the loss of good-paying jobs and costing the state millions.
The investment in infrastructure improvements leading to and in the park was done with the intent of making the park suitable for industry and business, not a casino. Yet, it has been claimed that such infrastructure would be ideal for a Foxwoods-styled casino. For example, the port at Davisville, which now hosts one of the largest auto import businesses in America, was named as a facility that could accommodate cruise ships making Quonset a port-of-call. Yet, cruise ships very often have their own casinos onboard. Why would they wish to part with any of those precious gambling revenues? Again, what would become of the successful auto port business? Moreover, while a waterfront casino might sound attractive, most casinos don’t have windows so that patrons will not be unduly distracted from the business of gambling. I also find it difficult to believe an airstrip nearby would be much of a draw for a casino; most people I know don’t fly to a gambling site, they drive in.
Those talking about Quonset as a site for a casino praise the area’s existing amenities which would, ostensibly, compliment a world-class casino. The North Kingstown Municipal golf course, being one of them, is a nice facility, but it’s no Augusta National. And, while the grains of sand at the small beaches at Quonset are relatively white, these muddy-water bay beaches themselves are a far cry from even our own ocean beaches!
In addition, I have to wonder who would develop this proposed casino? Indeed, is it at all feasible to attract an operator who would need to invest upwards of a billion dollars for a casino in a depressed market between the destination resort casinos in Connecticut and the anticipated Massachusetts gambling facilities? Would an operator be interested in a waterfront casino that would likely be seasonal in nature? Also, would a potential operator recoil at the prospect of having to perform contamination mitigation, depending upon the location of the resort?
Economically, this trial balloon that is being launched by a few legislators seems dubious at best. I believe the state would be much better served if efforts were made to continue to attract good businesses to the park; businesses that hire Rhode Island workers for long-lasting, quality jobs with good pay.
Finally, there are my concerns about the impact of a casino on the fabric of the community of North Kingstown. Often swept under the rug but no less a reality is the growth in crime in areas/communities where casinos are located, and the depressing effect they have on nearby businesses. I take comfort in the fact that the last time North Kingstown voters were faced with a casino question (the Harrah’s proposal), they rejected it by a 3-to-1 margin. All things considered, I believe, and hope, that any proposal for a large-scale casino at Quonset would face the same fate.
James C. Sheehan
RI State Senate
Narragansett & North Kingstown