Category Archives: Gambling Regulation

Gambling Operators Look to Texas for Next Big Jackpot

Legal gambling—both online and in-person—has been taking the US by storm for the better part of the last decade. On the East Coast, it would be quicker to name the states that do not have gambling than it would be to name the states that do. The same can be said for the middle of the country as well, with states like Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana embracing gambling in its various forms. One state that stands out for its reluctance to take casino gambling legalization seriously is Texas. Despite it being one of the biggest and wealthiest states in the country, Texas residents are forced to drive into neighboring Oklahoma or Louisiana to gamble legally.

While there is currently nothing on the books legislation-wise that points to the legal landscape of gambling in Texas changing, some real estate moves by casino interests have people paying attention. Casino-owners are increasingly turning their eye towards Texas, and we would be remiss if we were to ignore this fact.

Property Purchases and Collaborative Deals

2024 barely began before the Las Vegas Sands Corporation was making headlines in Texas, of all places. It was reported on January 2nd that the casino giant would be purchasing a few properties located near downtown Dallas. The properties were acquired from billionaire Mark Cuban when Sands purchased a controlling stake in the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks late last year. In total, the Dallas-area properties now under the ownership of Las Vegas Sands are worth nearly $50 million.

VICI Properties, which owns Caesars Palace in Las Vegas as well as many other gambling destinations, teamed up with Canyon Ranch last year. Canyon Ranch is a resort and spa owner that manages quite a few properties across Texas. The “long-term partnership” is aimed at expanding Canyon Ranch’s reach across Texas over the next decade. In all, VICI paid more than $200 million to be a part of this deal.

These are only two examples of casino interests taking a special interest in Texas, but they are two of many recent examples. In speaking to the Dallas Morning News, local property manager Jeanette Rice explained the recent interest by saying, “Texas is the land of opportunity. We have 30 million residents and many certainly would be interested in having casinos closer than a drive to Oklahoma. If the regulatory doors are open to such moves, I imagine that many gaming groups would be salivating at the opportunity to expand into Texas.”

What Can We Expect in 2024?

As far as changes to the legal casino gambling landscape in Texas, I would not be expecting much of anything to happen in 2024. Even though big names in real estate and casino ownership are taking an increasing interest in Texas, state lawmakers have not given the subject of legalized gambling much attention at all. As the likes of Sands and VICI become more entrenched in the Lonestar State it is to be expected that the lobbying dollars will soon follow.

2024 may not be a pivotal year in terms of Texas casino legislation, but it is looking more and more like a pivotal year for so many other reasons. If nothing else, it is highly likely that we look back on 2024 as the year that really got the ball rolling when it comes to legal and online casinos in Texas.

NC Lawmakers to Weigh Adding More Casinos

Up and down the east coast, states are continuously expanding on their forays into the world of legalized gambling. In states like Maryland and Massachusetts this has come in the form of recently established online sportsbooks, and in states like Pennsylvania and New Jersey there seems to be new online and brick and mortar casinos coming into play every quarter. As you move further south, below Virginia for example, legalized and regulated gambling markets are more difficult to come by.

North Carolina is an interesting state when it comes to gambling because it is not entirely devoid of it, but it is also far from a gambling destination. The best illustration of this is the location of the state’s three casinos, all of which are owned and operated by Native American tribes. As it presently exists, North Carolina state law does not sanction the existence of casinos, whether online or otherwise. For this reason, the only casinos you will find are located far from major population centers like Raleigh and Charlotte, making them difficult to access for the overwhelming majority of North Carolinians. Lawmakers who are looking to secure both increased tax revenue for the state and reelection for themselves have taken note of the warming views on casino gambling and are beginning to discuss the steps needed to be taken to make North Carolina more competitive with its east coast neighbors, particularly Virginia.

Small First Steps Being Taken, Legislation Awaited

In the wake of the upcoming Labor Day holiday, North Carolina Republicans are planning to hold formal discussions about what legalizing casino gambling would look like. On its face this is exciting news, but North Carolina House Speaker, Tim Moore (R-Cleveland), was quick to temper expectations by making it clear that legalized gambling is still a long way away. Speaking to the infancy of this endeavor, Moore said, “At the end of the day, we haven’t had a definitive proposal laid on the table for caucus members to discuss, for them to weigh in one way or another. It’s all been a conceptual discussion.”

The discussion may be conceptual in its current form, but lawmakers have already begun throwing around plans that would allow for the establishment of casinos in Rockingham County (near Greensboro), Nash County (near Rocky Mount and home to a 10+ mile stretch of Interstate 95), Anson County (east of Charlotte), and on Lumbee tribal lands.

These particular counties were chosen strategically, of course. They are home to or located near large population centers and tourist thoroughfares, but also home to local lawmakers who have expressed interest in welcoming casinos. The phrase being used continuously within this discussion is “entertainment district”. The theoretical North Carolina casinos, once established, will exist within so-called entertainment districts, where there will be restaurants, shopping, and living spaces in addition to a casino location. This is not dissimilar to approaches taken by states like Maryland and is thought to have a higher likelihood for success because the plan focuses on economic development on the whole, rather than simply bringing gambling to North Carolina for the sake of doing so.

Also mentioned was bringing video lottery terminals to locations all over North Carolina. There is not much indication as to what this will look like, but the thought is something similar to Virginia, where these gaming terminals exist anywhere from bars and restaurants to gas stations and liquor stores.

More Organization Needed to Move Forward

As is so often the case, the plan for bringing casinos to North Carolina is one that looks and sounds good on paper but is much more difficult to bring to fruition in the real world. Chief amongst the challenges to expanding legalized gambling in North Carolina is the fact that it is still a divisive issue. Recent polls indicate that upwards of 55% of North Carolinians (and even higher percentages in the aforementioned counties) support expanding legalized gambling. This is a majority, but not one that can be relied upon. Especially when most citizens have expressed a desire for a referendum on gambling expansion, not a bill written behind closed doors and voted upon by only a few senators and representatives.

No matter what way you flip it, North Carolina needs more concrete steps forward before anyone can get overly excited at the prospect of more casinos being built. At its core, it is an encouraging sign that state lawmakers are entertaining the issue of expansion, but the reality is that a significant amount of work is needed before more casinos are sanctioned in North Carolina.

Chinese Online Gambling Suspect Arrested in Thailand

Whether they have been there or not, most gamblers around the world have heard of Macao, the special region of China where gambling is not only legal, it flourishes much like in Las Vegas. While this is the case, most people are not aware that gambling–in all forms–is illegal throughout the whole of the rest of China. For this reason, many Chinese citizens turn to illegal online gambling operations in order to scratch the gambling itch.

Many different people and organizations run illegal online gambling operations in China, but few have gained the attention of Chinese authorities like She Zhijiang. Zhijiag has been wanted by Chinese authorities for the better part of the last decade due to his alleged advertisement and supplying of online gambling to Chinese citizens.

Caught by Interpol and Extradition to China

She Zhijiang is a 40 year old Chinese national who also holds a Cambodian passport. Though the details surrounding the arrest and apprehension are not immediately clear, it appears as though Zhijiang was arrested thanks to a ‘red notice’ issued by Interpol. A red notice is something that allows police from essentially any jurisdiction in the world to apprehend a subject for a variety of different criminal activities. Being sought after by Interpol is a big deal, and in most parts of the world it is only a matter of time until you are caught, especially if the Chinese government is after you.

Wang Webin, a spokesperson for for the Chinese foreign ministry, did not confirm or deny the arrest in Thailand and supposed pending extradition, but simply said, “No matter what corner of the world a criminal suspect runs to, China will initiate law enforcement cooperation with relevant countries and bring the suspect to justice.”

Massive Presence in Southeast Asian Gambling

Across southeast Asia, the subject of online gambling is looked upon different by varying governments. In addition to China, countries like Cambodia also forbid online gambling in all its forms. With that said, gambling at physical casinos is something that generally gets a pass. She Zhijiang is accused of operating various online gambling websites (both legal and illegal depending on the jurisdiction), and while this is going to be the subject of future Chinese criminal proceedings, Zhijiang does have a public connection with physical gambling.

She is the reported chairman of Yatai International Holdings Group, a company that has made millions of dollars worth of investments in Cambodia, the Philippines, and Myanmar. In fact, the gambling facility that was recently built in Myanmar is rumored to be worth more than $15 billion.

While there are still a lot of unknowns surrounding both Zhijiang and his arrest, there is little doubt that She has made a career in the gambling industry. You might be wondering why someone with the wealth Zhijiang reportedly has would take a risk offering online gambling services in China, but the answer to that comes down to one thing; money. Even though online gambling has been banned in China for virtually as long as the internet has existed, the country is so vast and so connected that it is nearly impossible for Chinese authorities to shut down every site. In much the same way that offshore sites operate in the United States and Canada, there are a plethora of gambling sites offering their services to Chinese citizens day in and day out.

Being that Zhijiang is worth millions and has a heavy presence in the Asian gambling landscape, you can bet that there will be plenty more details emerging in the coming days and weeks.

Florida Governor Signs Gambling Bill with Big Implications

This past Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe of Florida struck a 30-year gambling deal that could change the gaming landscape in the state for years to come. The deal would be the state’s largest sports gambling expansion to date, while addressing the concerns of the Seminole Tribe, who are responsible for the majority of the gambling industry in Florida. The new deal would also introduce online sports betting into the fold, bringing in billions of dollars in revenue to the state.

A New Chapter in a Complicated Relationship

For years, Florida has been trying to iron out a new deal with Seminole Tribe. Until Friday’s announcement, the efforts had been unsuccessful, and at times even tense. In a statement with the Florida Trend, Marcellus Osceola Jr., chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, said the agreement cements the tribe’s partnership with decades to come. Osceola Jr. went on to say that the deal “is the best deal for everybody” and it is “in favor of both parties, because this is a long-lasting team.”

Gov. DeSantis echoed the sentiments of his Seminole counterpart, noting that the new deal would be mutually beneficial. With the signature form the governor, both the Seminole Tribe and the state could be looking at billions in new revenue, as well as a significant economic impact. While the deal bodes well for the future relationship between the Seminole Tribe and the state of Florida, it still has a long way to go before becoming a reality.

Big Deal Means Big Numbers

Florida’s GOP legislative leaders have given the deal their blessing unofficially, but in order for the compact to go into law, the Legislature must officially approve it during the next session. This year’s regular session is scheduled to end April 30, but lawmakers have agreed to host a special session during the week of May 17 to consider the compact between the Seminole Tribe and the state. The additional time will allow them to review the finer details of the deal to confirm that it takes into consideration everyone’s interests, including the public’s.

The gambling agreement is a 30-year deal that could deliver $2.5 billion to the state over the next 5 years. Over the next decade, the state could see at least $6 billion. The key to the deal is granting the Seminole Tribe statewide control on online sports betting. The belief is that the Seminole Tribe could use their existing gambling foothold and infrastructure to roll out a successful gambling expansion in the form of online sportsbooks.

Implications for Sports Betting

If the agreement is signed into law, it will allow the Seminole Tribe to offer online sports betting in partnership with the state’s pari-mutuel facilities. This includes poker cardrooms, horse racing tracks, and jai-alai arenas. Similar to the sports betting legislation that has been put in place in other areas of the country, Florida would allow residents who are 21 and older to place wagers on collegiate and professional sporting events, including motorsports and Olympic contests.

The Seminole Tribe’s existing casinos and pari-mutuels could be used to create and offer their own sports betting mobile apps, from which they would keep 60% of betting revenue. Under the deal, the Seminoles would also have the option to contract with popular online sports betting companies like DraftKings and FanDuel. Floridians would welcome online sports betting with open arms, as many other states have already made online sports betting legal. Part of the reason that Florida has fallen behind that national trends is because the Seminole Tribe’s involvement had to be carefully considered. The deal that was signed be DeSantis does just that.

If the prospects that sports betting wasn’t enough, the Seminole Tribe could also see additional gaming expansions tied to the deal, including additional casinos. Law makers will officially pass their judgement on the new legislation within the next month.

Virginia To See Expansion of Slot Machines

Rosie’s Gaming will be opening its latest slot machine parlor in the town of Dumfries in southern Prince William County. The facility will host over 100 machines and marks a continued expansion of gambling in the state.

The machines are know as historic horse racing slots. They function exactly the same as traditional slot machines with the same look and feel as those on the Vegas strip. The odds and results however, are based on the outcomes of old horse races. The terminals offer a rarely used feature which allows users to wager based on stats of the horses’ odds and previous results.

Gambling expansion in Virginia has had a tough time getting a foothold. Voters in the state have long rejected the practice. However, the Virginia State Legislature approved the use of such slot machines and since 2018, they have seen a steady rise in popularity. The slot terminals at Rosie’s are operated by the same company that is currently running slot machines at Colonial Downs racetrack located in New Kent County and a portion of those proceeds are devoted to the purses for races at Colonial Downs as a way to boost the horse racing industry in Virginia. Gamblers in the state have responded positively to the machines in places where they are active. At Colonial Downs off of Midlothian Turnpike in Richmond as well as in Winton and Hampton, patrons have helped make the HHR slots a Virginia success story. Revenues are up and in November the machines paid out total winnings of $155 million of roughly $170 million wagered.

Competition Abounds

This is an encouraging sign for Rosie’s which will face top competition from larger casinos in the area. Currently, Virginia residents can travel a short distance across the Potomac River to MGM National Harbor. Located in Maryland, it is one of the biggest casinos on the east coast. Alternatively, patrons can travel to West Virginia to place their wagers at the Hollywood Casino at the Charles Town racetrack. Both locations are a short travel distance for Northern Virginia residents and offer additional casino amenities such as table games.

Rosie’s will see increased competition in the coming months as well. The Virginia Lottery is set to approve a number of commercial licenses for online sports betting. In addition, four other Virginia cities have voted to open new casinos which are expected to launch in the next few years.

Optimistic Outlook

Management of Rosie’s is confident that they will be able to offer Virginians an enticing gambling location. Rick Casagrande is the general manger for Rosie’s Dunfries location. “In every jurisdiction, the people that come out are looking for an entertainment option that’s clean, safe, and friendly. And we provide that,” he said.

Mayor of Dunfries, Derrick Wood, and other town officials took a tour of the new facility as the final slot terminals arrived and the finishing touches were added. Wood stated that he was impressed with the effort Rosie’s is making. He is also optimistic for what the facility will do for the community. Rosie’s will be hiring over 100 local residents at $15 per hour and has made substantial commitments to assist local groups like the Boys and Girls Club.

In 2019 voters in Dunfries passed gambling 468 to 306. Mayor Wood suspects that those opposed to the expansion will remain so despite the new Rosie’s facility. “Everybody ain’t gonna like you, everybody ain’t gonna like me, and everybody ain’t gonna like every business that comes to town,” he said. However, some opponents could be won over as they start to see the improvements that Rosie’s plans to bring to the town he said. Rosie’s will be the biggest employer to establish itself in town in a few years. Conservative estimates place increases in revenue to the town at roughly 20% to start. “Dunfries has always been a place people drive through. Now we are trying to create a sense of destination,” says Wood.

Senator Scott Surovell has supported the town’s plan to bring Rosie’s Gaming to Dunfries. He stated that while he does not personally gamble, he is excited at the prospect of keeping gamblers in the state. “From where I live, I can walk a few blocks and look out over the Potomac and see $150 million in Virginia money going across the bridge. I’ve always said I’d be supportive of keeping Virginia’s money here in a responsible way.”

Arkansas Casinos Are Exempt From New Health Restrictions

Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas has issued new health restrictions in relation to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The health restrictions stipulate that bars, restaurants, and other locations with licenses to distribute alcohol are required to close no later than 11 pm. This order will be in effect through January 3 and the hope is that this curfew on alcohol will help to stop the spread of coronavirus in the state.

But not for Casinos

Thankfully, to many of Arkansas residents, the health restrictions will not extend to casinos. According to the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration casinos will continue to be allowed to function from 9 am to 2 am in accordance with the health order issued last May. Industry leaders were also happy to hear the news of this exclusion.

Carlton Saffa is the Chief Market Officer at the Saracen Casino Resort. According to him, the exclusion of casinos from this recent health related order was not a mistake nor an oversight. “We are licensed as a casino,” said Saffa. “Obviously, we’re inclusive of some subsets of hospitality but this property is a gaming facility, just like Oaklawn and just like Southland. Since the onset of Covid-19 and the government’s first reactions to it, casinos have been regulated uniquely, and we should be.” The Department of Finance has issued guidance that confirms this opinion.

Amendment 100 to the Arkansas constitution allowed for the operation of four casinos in the state. According to the text, “Casino licensees shall be permitted to sell intoxicating liquor or provide complimentary servings of intoxicating liquor, only for on-premises consumption at the casinos, during all hours in which the casino licensees conduct casino gaming. To that extent, casino licensees shall not be subject to Ark. Code Ann. §3-3-211, which prohibits the sale of intoxicating liquor on Christmas Day, and Ark. Code Ann. §3-9-201, et seq. and other applicable Arkansas law requiring the residents of a dry county or city to vote to approve the sale of intoxicating liquor.”

Still doing their part

Therefore, casinos fall outside of the purview of the recent health restrictions. However, Saffa has taken the initiative to assist the state in attempting to stop the spread of Covid-19. The dine-in restaurants at the Saracen Casino will close at 11 pm as will the casino’s bar venues. On the gaming floor, drink service will continue until the casino closes daily operation at 2 am. In addition, all of the other health related measures practiced at large across the country will continue to be observed. Disposable drinkware, social distancing, sanitation stations, and mask requirements will all still be in place. “Outside of that, we’ll continue to do what we have been doing, which is to continue to implement a robust contact tracing protocol. The casino industry has been asked by the state to participate in contact tracing for all patrons, so thousands of people enter this building every day and every one of their IDs are scanned, so we have a running log of who comes in the building,” says Saffa.

States Across the Union Approve Expansions In Gambling

The gambling industry in the US saw positive results at the polls this November. Three states approved measures authorizing legal sports gambling. In addition, three more states approved and/or expanded their casino gambling market.

Sports Betting

South Dakota, Maryland, and Louisiana authorized ballot measures to introduce sports gambling into their states. With these additions, more than half of the states in America will have some form of legalized sports betting. This is no small feat after less than three years have passed since the US Supreme Court ruled the practice no longer illegal under federal law.

Sports gamblers likely will not be able to place legal bets in their respective states until at least 2021 and possibly into the year 2022. The state legislators in South Dakota, Maryland, and Louisiana are now tasked with creating a legal framework for the industry. The next steps will be rules and a regulatory structure for licensing private operators. Only then will legal sports books start taking their first bets.

Casino Expansions


The state of ? Voters in Bristol, Danville, Portsmouth, and Norfolk, Virginia approved measures bringing casino gambling to their communities. “We look forward to fulfilling the trust the voters have placed in us by bringing 1,300 good-paying jobs, tourism dollars and economic development to the city, and we are incredibly excited to begin construction,” said Tom Reeg, Chief Executive Officer of Caesars Entertainment, of the successful Danville proposal.


Colorado has expanded the types of games allowed on its casino floors while at the same time eliminating certain limits on wagers. Casinos in Black Hawk, Cripple Creek, and Central City will be introducing new games on their gambling floors. Baccarat, Keno, and a spinning wheel will all be available for state residents to play. In addition, state casinos are eliminating betting limits which restricted maximum bets to $100.


Nebraska authorized a measure which will add casino gambling in its horse tracks. Casino games will be added to horse racing facilities at Horsemen’s Park in Omaha, Lincoln Race Course, Fonner Park in Grand Island, Ag Park in Columbus, and Atokad in South Sioux City. Supporters of the state’s casino expansion say that taxing the industry could add nearly $65 million annually to state coffers. That revenue is slated to go to property tax relief for state residents.

A Positive Future

“It appears that Americans are becoming increasingly comfortable with legalized gambling,” says David Schwartz. Schwartz is a gambling historian at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. He went on, “the addition of casinos in Virginia and racetrack casinos in Nebraska indicates that casino-style gambling is on the upswing as well. We have reached a point where voters seem satisfied that legalizing gambling will offer positive returns for their state.”

Leaders in the country’s gaming industry are optimistic about what these expansions mean for the future of the gambling market. The American Gaming Association is the main trade group for the casino industry. Bill Miller, the AGA’s Chief Executive Officer, praised the decisions of voters in expanding gambling legislation. “As a result of successful ballot measures in six gaming states, more Americans will have access to much needed job opportunities, dedicated tax revenue, and safe, regulated entertainment options closer to home.”

Roulette Wheels Spin Again in Massachusetts

The game of roulette has returned to Massachusetts casinos. However, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, strict guidelines of play will be enforced. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission ruled on the reintroduction of roulette in a meeting this past week. The decision was to allow roulette to return on the gaming floor with the addition of a number of changes to the rules of the game in order to limit patron contact. The Commission approved roulette at the MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor.

The Commission allowed Massachusetts casinos to reopen in July. While most games were live, poker, craps, and roulette were not allowed back on gaming floors. According to Loretta Lillios, Interim Director of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s Investigation and Enforcement Bureau, both the MGM and Encore made requests to the Commission to reintroduce the games after three months of safe casino operation.

“We have worked with them to identify health and safety measures that could be implemented with roulette and in doing so we tried to hew closely to the measures that the commission already approved for the blackjack-style games,” said Lillios. “One of our obligations with a request like this is that we consult with the Department of Public Health and the department raised no objections to the reintroduction of the game and it communicated that it is comfortable doing so in conjunction with the minimum safety measures outlined here.”

The Department of Public Health also considered the fact that roulette is offered in casinos in Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey. That means that Massachusetts residents do not have to travel far from their home state in order to play the game.

New Rules Being Introduced

In order to offer roulette, the casinos must adhere to a set of safety guidelines set forth by the commission. Roulette will be cap at a maximum of three players. Each player will be required to be seated and will be separated by plexiglass. Bystanders will not be permitted to stand around the table and spectate. Encore will offer 16 roulette tables and MGM will be permitted to offer seven tables. However, neither casino will be permitted to raise their occupancy limit with the addition of the game.

Another significant rule change will be a prohibition on bets placed once the ball is in motion. According to Bruce Band, Assistant Director of the Investigation and Enforcement Bureau, classic roulette depends upon the dealer’s ability to hear and process verbal bets once the ball is placed in motion. With the Covid-19 health precautions, namely masks and plexiglass, the commission was concerned this would make verbal bets more difficult. Therefore, the decision was reached to simply eliminate these types of bets for the time being.

Commissioners took a positive stance on reintroducing the game. “I think we now have a history of watching our licensees and patron compliance,” said Commissioner Eileen O’Brien. “The numbers are not static; they are trending in the opposite direction of what we would like to see. But on balance I think if you look at the integrity of the games, the protections in place, the lack of increase to occupancy, the additional rehires that would occur as a result, I think it is an appropriate time now to discuss this and vote on it as a commission.”

Senators Eyeing Large Video Gaming Terminal Expansion in Pa.

Republican senators have been working tirelessly on an effort to bring a sweeping gambling expansion to the state of Pennsylvania before lawmakers break for the summer. The proposal, led by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, would bring an influx of video gaming terminals (VGTs) to the state. The majority of the effort was worked on behind closed doors, and now as the details of the bill have been shared, many are raising concerns about the proposal. Now officials are scrambling in an attempt to direct their efforts toward a resolution that will help push this bill before the summer holiday begins.

Details of Proposal

The new proposal is the result of a collaboration between Republican senators and lobbyists for large video gaming companies. The two have paired up in an attempt to bring VGTs to thousands of bars, taverns, social clubs, and other establishments holding a liquor license. A draft copy of the bill states that VGTs would be allowed at the majority of nearly 15,000 establishments currently holding a liquor license in the state. Each establishment could have up to five terminals, which could mean nearly 50,000 VGTs would become available if the bill is passed. Similar VGTs are currently operational at truck stops throughout the state, but these machines are not regulated and taxed, which is part of the reason why Republicans have brought the latest proposal to the table.

The Republican Senators in favor of the bill see it as an opportunity to capitalize on untapped revenue, as well as a way to offer safe and regulated VGTs to residents. Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman stated that the proposal was not necessarily about a sweeping gambling expansion, but rather a way to control and regulate the existing skill game terminals that are operating throughout the state. Many officials have questioned the legality of these terminals, some even calling for their removal. The latest proposal would regulate these terminals, while ensuring that the state benefits from the revenue produced.

Corman estimates that the proposal could raise up to $250 million annually. Under the current circumstances, this revenue could be directed toward mitigating the damage dealt from the coronavirus pandemic. In the future, the goal would be to direct this revenue to help freeze property taxes for senior citizens.

Many Officials Have Reservations

Since the behind-the-scenes campaign has come to the fore, many have found flaws in the plan and are questioning the timing of the proposal. The mounting challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic have forced many of the businesses in which these VGTs would be placed to close their doors for some time. Although businesses throughout the country are slowly beginning to reopen, the threat of the virus spreading remains and the safety of these terminals has come into question.

Additionally, many of the large gaming companies involved in the push for the new proposal were responsible for the funding of Scarnati’s campaign, leading many to question the integrity of the new proposal. Pennsylvania’s casinos have also weighed in, arguing that a gaming expansion this large could infringe upon their revenue, which has already taken a major hit from closures caused by the pandemic.

Timeline for the Proposal

The Senators pushing the bill have been optimistic about the expansion, but the mounting concerns and lack of support from Republicans and Democrats alike suggest that there is still a long way to go before these terminals become a reality. As of Tuesday, there were not enough votes from the Republicans to move the proposal forward, yet leaders were still hopeful that a vote could take place this week. If they fail to do so, it will be a race against the clock, as the legislature will break for summer at the end of the month, and they will not return again until September.

IGT and Twin River Partnership in Question

In January, Twin River Worldwide Holdings Inc. and International Gaming Technology (IGT) reached an agreement to embark on a joint-venture to pursue a 20-year contract for the state’s lottery and gambling rights. The deal would also expand and renovate the Twin River’s Lincoln casino, as well as a 12,000 square-foot Twin River headquarters in Providence, Rhode Island. The two entities were previously at odds over IGT’s ongoing attempts to lock down a 20-year contract extension that would have given them the right to the majority of Rhode Island’s slot machine needs. Now, it appears they were able to set aside their differences, giving IGT the opportunity to dominate slot machine offerings under their partnership. The proposed deal has now reached the desk of lawmakers and state gambling regulators, who have asked the two companies to defend their joint venture.

IGT’s Stronghold on Rhode Island

IGT is one of the leading slots providers around the world, offering machines for brick-and-mortar casinos, as well as online slots. Prior to their latest dealings with Twin River, IGT was responsible for providing about half of the nearly 5,000 slot machines in operation at the two gambling facilities in Rhode Island. The 20-year contract that was in dispute, would give them an even stronger command over the gaming industry in the state, and the resolution of this dispute suggests that IGT is inching closer to their goal.

If the proposed deal is accepted by lawmakers, IGT would emerge as a 60 percent shareholder of the new company, leaving Twin River with only a 40 percent stake. A new contract could grant IGT the right to provide and collect revenue on 85 percent of the video slots offered in the state. Previously Twin River was the only threat for a competing bid at the new contract, and now those tensions, it would appear, have subsided.

Details of the Partnership

The proposed partnership and legislation include exclusive management of 100 percent of video slot machines by IGT and Twin River. Under this deal, the companies would pay the state $25 million over two years for the lottery and gambling contract. Additionally, it is expected that IGT would be investing around $150 million for this project, in addition to the $100 million being used to renovate the Twin River Lincoln Casino. The new deal also guarantees to keep the 1,100 casino-related jobs in Rhode island, which will help generate the projected $300 million a year from slots and other casino games. The two companies believe that this partnership presents Rhode Island with the opportunity to increase gaming competitiveness with neighboring states like Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Criticism from Lawmakers

While officials have applauded IGT and Twin River for providing the state’s third-largest source of revenue, there are still a number of lingering questions that need to be addressed. There had been many concerns surrounding the length of the contract, especially before the joint venture was proposed. Initially, Twin River was adamant about encouraging competition and blocking 20-year contracts. Under their new partnership, they are included in the 20-year contract, and appear to be changing their tune.

The $25 million over two years for the lottery contract is the same amount that IGT proposed last year. That proposal was shot down and opposed by Twin River. A year later, under their new partnership, Twin River seems to feel that this is an appropriate amount. Director of Revenue, Marc Furcolo, disagrees, citing the fact that the latest proposal is for two exclusive licenses instead of one. In his eyes, the committee should thus expect more payment up front.

Many officials continue to question the length of the contract, pointing out that Rhode Island would be forced pay a premium while leasing slot machines from IGT for the next 20 years, rather than owning them outright. Republican House candidate Steven Frias suggested the deal should be for 10 years, at most. The new deal eliminates any opportunity for a competitive bid for lottery and gambling rights. According to Frias, in order to compete with neighboring states, Rhode Island should avoid locking themselves into a long-term deal like this.

The deal has done a lot to progress discussions about the future of gambling within the state, but many questions remain to be answered. Legislators will have to review the deal more closely before allowing IGT and Twin River to take over slot offerings for the next 20 years.