After weeks of intense behind-the-scenes lobbying, the annual State House casino debate is about to move to the next stage, with a public hearing next week on a bid to change the state Constitution to specifically allow the proposed Harrah’s-Narragansett Indian casino in West Warwick.
Despite Donald Trump’s best efforts to get into the game by convincing lawmakers to allow competitive bidding for a single Rhode Island casino license, Thursday’s House Finance Committee hearing will focus solely on the Harrah’s-backed bid for a casino in Democratic House Speaker William J. Murphy’s hometown.
Yesterday, Republican Governor Carcieri joined the call for some form of "competitive bidding."
The governor’s spokesman Jeff Neal stressed that Carcieri "is still against casino gambling" and "any effort to amend the state Constitution in order to grant a sweetheart deal to an out-of-state company."
If, however, "Rhode Islanders want a casino, the governor believes it would make more sense for the General Assembly to pass legislation to authorize a competitive-bidding process for a state-operated facility, as required by the Constitution."
He envisioned a competition for a casino-management license around such issues as the state’s share of the proceeds, the manager’s fee and the "kind of investment the bidder was willing to make in Rhode Island."
Competitive bidding would, at least, "give us a chance to get the best deal possible for the people of Rhode Island. The current attempt seems rigged to benefit Harrah’s," Neal said.
Carcieri mirrored, to an extent, the April 2003 recommendation of a House gambling study.