R.I. vote on Indian casino delayed until ’06

Jun 28, 2005 3:44 AM

Not that they don’t have enough on their plate now that they have taken over the operation of the far-flung Caesars Entertainment Inc. (CZR) casino world, Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET) will have at least a year to put together a plan to win a referendum vote for a casino in Rhode Island.

For the past couple of years, Harrah’s have been working the Rhode Island politicians to get them to approve a referendum that would allow the voters to decide whether the company could partner with the Narragansett Indians to build a casino in West Warwick. After continued delays, the casino’s principal legislative backer, Rep. Timothy Williamson admitted last week that there won’t be enough time to get the project moving for this November.

Part of the current delay rests with the state Supreme Court that has been asked to decide whether the casino referendum question meets constitutional questions. The court’s decision is not expected until August, limiting the amount of time available to lawmakers to call for a referendum and for supporters to campaign for a favorable vote.

Expressing disappointment at the news was Narragansett Indian Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas. However, he emphasized that he and his tribe had been waiting for years to get a public vote on the casino and felt the delay could prove beneficial. "Who knows, it may work out for the best," he said, adding, "let’s hope that it does."