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R.I. Gov. vetoesHarrah’s casino

Jul 6, 2004 5:34 AM

Calling the plan "a sweetheart deal for an out-of-state gambling colossus," Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri vetoed a bill that would permit the voters to decide whether Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET) and the Narragansett Indians may build a $600 million casino in West Warwick.

Legislative leaders in both the Senate and the House said they had sufficient votes to override the veto.

Carcieri said he believed the casino posed a "unique danger to the state." He added that "it’s like a bunch of leeches all over us and all over our state, pulling money out, not creating value."

Harrah’s has been working for months to get state approval for their casino plan. However, since polls have indicated that the voters favor the casino development, the company has been satisfied to have the referendum established rather than having the lawmakers vote on the casino outright.

For his part, Carcieri said the private establishment of a casino violated the state Constitution that requires that all gaming come under the aegis of the state’s lottery commission. It is that agency that controls gaming at the two pari-mutuel operations that operate video lottery machines.

According to the gaming proposal, Harrah’s would own the casino but would share the proceeds with the Narragansett Indian tribe. The plan calls for Harrah’s to pay the state a $100 million licensing fee and to operate on a tax plan of between 25% and 40% for the first 10 years.

Carcieri wasn’t alone in stating his opposition to the expansion of gaming in the state. Others included U.S. Sen. Lincoln Chafee, former Gov. J. Joseph Garrahy and the mayors of Cranston, Newport and Warwick.