Harrah’s looks to curry
Rhody voter support

Jul 11, 2006 4:35 AM

Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET) is attempting to ease the path to victory in November by working out a beneficial payment schedule with the townspeople of West Warwick, R.I., who will decide in November whether they will favor a multi-million casino complex.

The country’s largest gaming company has been working with the Narragansett Indian Tribe for the past couple of years in an attempt to get a casino license. The work has been arduous considering there were major pitfalls placed before them by a less than supportive legislature.

However, in November the ballot will have a question asking voters if the state constitution should be amended to permit the tribe and its partners to build and run a casino in West Warwick. The amendment will exempt the tribe from a constitutional provision requiring the state to run all lotteries, including casinos. The existing racinos in Lincoln and Newport are both technically operated by the state’s lottery administrators, although in actuality they have private operators.

Still to be determined is the amount of money the Harrah’s/Narragansett partnership will pay the town for allowing the casino to be built. Some have suggested a $25 million per year payment which would go a long way toward helping the town meet its $78 million annual budget.

Other townspeople are also insisting that Harrah’s Entertainment consider the town’s quality of life issues in addition to the financial payments.