Rhode Island Casino Gambling Amendment, Question 1 (2012)

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Question 1
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Type:Constitutional amendment
Constitution:Rhode Island Constitution
Referred by:Rhode Island State Legislature

The Rhode Island Casino Gambling Amendment, also known as Question 1, was a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment on the November 6, 2012 ballot in Rhode Island, where it was approved.

The ballot measure asked voters if they wanted state-operated casino gambling at the Twin River venue. It was a part of Article 25 of the budget known as H 5894, a $7.7 billion budget signed into law on June 30, 2011.[1][2]

The measure was originally slated to appear on the 2010 ballot before it was vetoed by the Governor. The 2010 measure, originally had two variations. The first version, which appeared in the House of Representatives, would have allowed casino gambling at the state's two slot venues, Twin River and Newport Grand. That, however, was split into two separate measures, the other of which would eventually become Question 2 on the 2012 ballot.[3][4]

Election results

See also: 2012 ballot measure election results

The following are official election results:

Rhode Island Question 1 (2012)
Approveda Yes 289,530 70.8%

Results via: The Rhode Island State Board of Elections.

Text of measure

Ballot language

The ballot language that voters saw on the ballot read:[5]

Shall an act be approved which would authorize the facility known as “Twin River” in the town of Lincoln to add state-operated casino gaming, such as table games, to the types of gambling it offers?[6]



  • According to Twin River spokeswoman Patti Doyle during the time where lawmakers were considering the 2010 proposal, “With respect to timing and tax rate, we remain focused at this juncture on receiving voter feedback on the will to expand gaming at Twin River. All other issues will be explored should the ballot question win voter approval.”
  • In 2011, for the 2012 proposal, Patti Doyle stated about threats from other states: "The threats from Massachusetts are real -- just a matter of time before the Commonwealth unveils its own gaming plans."[7]
  • Twin River's President and chief operating office George Papanier stated, “Absent full casino gaming … we would, literally, be in a fight for our survival."[8]
  • House Majority Leader Nicholas Mattiello said: “It’s important to get the bill passed so we can start working on the details, and understand that all this does is put it on the referendum so that the people can vote. … Now I know they voted on it in the past, but I think there is a substantial change in circumstance. We now have competition from the north that’s going to threaten Twin River."[9]


Arguments that had been made in favor of operating casino gambling in the state:[10]

  • The state was losing casino gamblers to flourishing casinos in neighboring states such as Connecticut.
  • Legislation was being considered in Massachusetts that would allow the licensing of two casinos and 3,000 slot machines at 4 race tracks in the state. Supporters were worried that the bill would further attract Rhode Islanders to other states for gambling, which was money that Rhode Island would lose out on.
  • Twin River believed that voter approval was indeed needed in order to expand gaming at the venue, but they did not believe a constitutional amendment was needed in order for this to happen. According to Patti Doyle, "We think a constitutional amendment would have been required if we intended Twin River to be privately owned and operated, which we do not. That was the Harrah’s proposal of a few years back. Since we are currently operated by the Division of Lotteries, we propose that we remain so should the question prevail."[8]


  • Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch and General Treasurer Frank T. Caprio urged lawmakers to return to the state house to override the 2010 ballot measure veto of the Governor of Rhode Island and place the measure on the ballot in 2010. According to Caprio, at the time, "The State of Rhode Island relies on almost $300 million per year in revenue generated by gaming. The future reliability of that revenue stream is now in a precarious position due to the inaction of the General Assembly."[11]



  • State Representative Michael Marcello argued that the topic was not one that voters vote for. Marcello stated that the votes had already spoken on the matter: "Every time this comes up it's rejected. At some point you have to respect the will of the voters. I think our time would be better spent trying to find other ways to bring more high paying jobs into the state."
  • Governor of Rhode Island Donald Carcieri had stated at the time that the 2010 measure was not a "sound economic development" plan. Carcieri claimed that he was more focused on helping the effort to revitalize the Twin River casino instead.[10]
  • According to Newport Mayor Newport Mayor Jeanne-Marie Napolitano, "I think bottom line: most people do not feel that this would be an asset to the community."[8]
  • Citizens Concerned About Casino Gambling was a group that was against the 2010 measure.[12]
  • Senate President M. Teresa Paiva-Weed stated her opposition to the measure, arguing against it before the Senate vote.[13]


Arguments against casino gambling include the following:

  • According to Reverend Eugene McKenna of Citizens Concerned About Casino Gambling, gambling was bad for the economy and its development. McKenna stated in 2010 about that year's proposal, "And yet we spend all our energy trying to get more and more gambling, whereas gambling does not make new revenue. The casinos don't get new revenue, they just move around and transfer the wealth around."[12]
  • Concerning the 2012 proposal, McKenna again commented: "The people of Rhode Island see it's a false hope. So many people know somebody whose life has been ruined or seriously harmed by addiction. People realize casino gambling is not economic development."[7]
  • Governor of Rhode Island Donald Carcieri stated concerns over the legality of the ballot measure, stating that a city should not be forced to be included in a statewide ballot about casinos when the city's mayor and city council were opposed to those operations being set up in their city. Carcieri stated, "The legislature grants the authority for every city and town to control themselves and control their affairs, so I think there is a legal issue here, possibly a constitutional issue … of the legislature passing something that … bypasses the process at the local level … I think that is a serious issue that needs to be looked at."[14]

Studies and analysis


A study conducted by The Innovation Group showed that the Twin River slot parlor could lose "nearly $100 million" in revenue if they were not able to compete with other venues that could take on casino operations. A two page summary of the study, released by Twin River stated that the operation could lose between 27 percent and 35 percent of its business by 2012 if competition from neighboring Massachusetts arises.[15]

According to the summary, “The Innovation Group also found that if Twin River only maintains its current gaming operations … the State of Rhode Island and the Town of Lincoln would lose an estimated $97.1 million and $2.3 million, respectively, in annual revenue.”

Media endorsements


The Providence Journal endorsed a referendum on the issue in an editorial published on June 30, 2010, stating its support. The editorial stated, "We support the referendum and hope that the legislature reconvenes to either override the governor’s veto or fill in some of the blanks left in the original legislation. Leaders should immediately start working with the governor on a plan." The editorial also claimed that the state could lose money if it loses the gambling race to Massachusetts, which currently has legislation pending regarding the measure.[16]


In a poll conducted by the opinion research and public policy analysis firm, Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, 65% of registered voters in the state who were surveyed were in support of live table games in the state. The survey, commissioned by Twin River, surveyed 600 residents between the dates of January 9-12, 2010.[17]

Date of Poll Pollster In favor Opposed Undecided Number polled
Jan. 9-12 Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates 65% 35% N/A 600


2012 measure lawsuits
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Initiative process

Narragansett Indian Tribe v. Rhode Island

The Narragansett Indian Tribe of Rhode Island filed a lawsuit in Rhode Island Superior Court on September 28, 2011, asking that the court declare the 2012 measure unconstitutional. The lawsuit referred to the tribe's own efforts to place a similar measure on the ballot in the past, where the court ruled that the tribe's proposal was unconstitutional due to the provision stating: "All lotteries shall be prohibited in the State except lotteries operated by the State."[18]

The lawsuit stated that Twin River was not being held to the same legal standard as the previous efforts by the Narragansett. The plaintiff's petition in the case can be found here.

The court set May 30 for hearing oral arguments. Twin River spokeswoman Patti Doyle commented on the announcement saying, "We're extremely pleased that the court is moving quickly to resolve the lawsuit. The constitutionality of Twin River Casino and their role as a state-operated casino has been recognized in two Supreme Court rulings, and we feel there is no merit to this latest legal challenge."[19]

Another casino measure made the ballot in 2012, the Newport Grand Casino Amendment, which became a part of the lawsuit when it was certified to appear on the ballot in April 2012.

On June 29, 2012, Superior Court Judge Melanie Thunberg ruled that the two measures could stay on the ballot.[20]

Path to the ballot

Section 1 of Article 14 of the Rhode Island Constitution says that the Rhode Island General Assembly can initiate the process of amendment "by a roll call vote of a majority of the members elected to each house." The House Finance Committee voted in favor of the measure, leaving the proposal up for debate in the full chamber. The bill was approved on June 9, 2010. In a last minute effort to place the measure on the ballot on the final day of legislative session, the House voted 62-12 to approve the measure. The bill was then sent to the Rhode Island State Senate, where the chamber voted 21-14 in favor of the measure as well, sending the measure to the ballot in November for voters to weigh in on it. The measure was approved on June 11, 2010 at 2 a.m.[21][22]

However, the measure was vetoed by Governor of Rhode Island Donald Carcieri during the week of June 23, 2010 after it was passed to the ballot by the Rhode Island General Assembly. The General Assembly has the option of reconvening to override the veto and re-send the measure to the ballot. Carcieri stated, "While I strongly support voter referenda, and have spoken in favor of questions being put to the citizens of Rhode Island on issues of expanding gaming, I cannot support such initiatives when critical financial information is unknown and the normal referenda process is altered without good reason."

Carcieri was referring to the city of Newport having to place the measure on the city's ballot, overriding laws in the city that require the council to approve referenda before they are placed on their ballot.[23]

After the veto, George Papanier wrote an email to lawmakers trying to coax them back to reconvene and override the veto of the Governor. According to the email: "If the General Assembly does not act this summer to allow a referendum this November, Rhode Islanders will have to wait until 2012 to vote on this question. By then, it is likely that Massachusetts will already be conducting gaming at existing 'racinos' and building casinos."[24]

2011 session

During the week of April 25, 2011, State Representative William San Bento, Jr. stated he would introduce similar legislation in session .[25]

On June 21, 2011, a revised version of the 2012 bill was introduced by House Democratic Leaders. On June 25, 2011, the House voted in favor of a $7.7 billion budget that included the proposed gambling measure, approving it with a final tally of 62 to 9. The measure then was sent to the Rhode Island State Senate for consideration for the 2012 ballot. The Senate was expected to vote on the measure on June 29, 2011. The measure was approved by the Senate that day, where the Governor signed the budget into effect, therefore allowing voters to decide the gambling measure.[9][2][26]

Similar measures

The issue of gambling has had a weak history in the state of Rhode Island. In 1994, voters rejected a casino measure, and again in 2006, when voters defeated a measure for the proposed construction of Narragansett Indian casino in West Warwick. That measure was defeated with a vote of 141,806 (37%) to 241,986 (63%). The House Finance Committee heard arguments on the measure on June 8, 2010 and was expected to take a vote on the measure as early as June 9, 2010.[8]

See also

Suggest a link

External links

Additional reading


  1. Boston Globe, "RI governor signs $7.7B state budget", June 30, 2011
  2. 2.0 2.1 Rhode Island General Assembly, "FY 2012 budget bill clears Assembly, signed by governor", June 30, 2011
  3. Providence Journal, "Fox sees new urgency in casino debate", April 17, 2010
  4. WPRI.com, "Table games on table at RI State House", April 27, 2011
  5. Rhode Island Secretary of State, "Voter Handbook - 2012", Retrieved September 11, 2012
  6. Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Boston Globe, "RI slot parlor taking a chance with voters", July 12, 2011
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Providence Journal, "Lawmakers to consider casino vote", June 8, 2010
  9. 9.0 9.1 Providence Journal, "House OKs putting casino on 2012 ballot", June 26, 2011
  10. 10.0 10.1 Boston.com, "R.I. House panel takes up gambling bill", May 14, 2010
  11. Providence Journal, "Lynch, Caprio urge lawmakers to rework casino bill", July 8, 2010
  12. 12.0 12.1 WPRI.com, "New casino ballot question possible", June 8, 2010
  13. Providence Journal, "R.I. Assembly ends session with OK of another casino referendum", June 12, 2010
  14. The Providence Journal, "Legality of casino bill questioned by Carcieri", June 17, 2010
  15. Providence Journal, "Twin River study predicts loss of millions in revenue", June 23, 2010
  16. Providence Journal, "Editorial: Vetoing the casino vote", June 30, 2010
  17. Providence Journal, "Twin River poll shows 65 percent want table games", July 19, 2010
  18. Providence Journal, "Narragansett Indians sue to block Twin River casino vote", September 28, 2011
  19. Providence Journal "R.I. Superior Court to hear arguments in tribe's casino referendum challenge on May 30," April 20, 2012
  20. Boston.com, "RI judge declines to block casino referendum", June 29, 2012
  21. Canadian Business, "RI House committee approves bill to let voters decide on state-operated casinos", June 10, 2010
  22. Providence Journal, "Casino referendum wins 2 a.m. General Assembly approval", June 11, 2010
  23. Providence Business News, "Carcieri vetoes Nov. casino referendum", June 23, 2010
  24. Providence Journal, "Twin River executive lobbies R.I. lawmakers for veto override", June 24, 2010
  25. East Providence Patch, "This Week At the General Assembly", April 23, 2011
  26. Providence Journal, "R.I. House leaders unveil revised casino bill", June 22, 2011