With votes in the Senate, the General Assembly has approved amended legislation introduced by House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi and Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio to strengthen the agreement between the State of Rhode Island and IGT and Bally’s Corporation, which operates Twin River Casino in Lincoln and Tiverton Casino Hotel. The legislation will be sent to the governor.
The legislation represents an economic development investment of more than $250 million to preserve and enhance Rhode Island’s third-largest source of revenue.
“The legislation increases revenue to our state and preserves critical jobs,” said Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick). “Along with the Senate, we have taken several steps to enhance the legislation on behalf of the taxpayers. I thank Senate President Ruggerio, who played a critical role in bringing the two companies together.”
Senate President Ruggerio said: “The Senate Finance Committee undertook an exhaustive review of this proposal and developed legislation that protects more than 1,000 jobs, guarantees significant capital investment, and preserves the state’s third-largest revenue stream. I am grateful to Speaker Shekarchi for working to enhance the proposal to further benefit the state, and to IGT and Bally’s for their continued partnership and investment in our state.”
At the request of House and Senate leadership, key changes were added to the amended version of the legislation, including an upfront payment to the state will increase from $25m to $27m. Bally’s will accelerate job creation at its corporate headquarters and will meet the 30 new jobs requirement as set forth in the legislation by Dec. 31, 2022. Bally’s will increase its commitment to the I-195 Commission for park renaming rights to $250,000 in the first year, $150,000 in the second year, and $100,000 thereafter, for a total increased commitment of $200,000. The IGT financial commitment has increased from $150m to $155m. The footprint for Bally’s commercial space in Providence has increased from 12,000 square feet to 20,000 square feet.
The commitment to problem gambling was increased from a minimum of $125,000 to a minimum of $200,000. Although not contained in the legislation, Bally’s and IGT have agreed to raise the minimum wage for its Rhode Island employees to $13 per hour by Jan. 1, 2022; $14 per hour by Jan. 1, 2023; and $15 per hour by Jan. 1, 2024. Each of those changes occurs a year ahead of statewide minimum wage increases enacted by the General Assembly last month.
Bally’s has also agreed to open an additional Rhode Island office, outside Providence, to hire a minimum of 30 information technology professionals. Also, IGT’s commitment to a STEM scholarship fund in Rhode Island schools will be increased from $25,000 to $35,000 per year.
IGT will add 100 new jobs, increasing the minimum number of jobs from 1,000 to 1,100. The aggregate payroll must now equate to 250% of minimum wage. At a $15 minimum wage, the total guaranteed payroll would be $85m per year. It provides a penalty against IGT for failure to meet employment levels. Bally’s will add 30 new jobs, with the same requirements and penalties as IGT. Bally’s will invest $10m, including a 50,000 square foot expansion to its facility in Lincoln.
IGT and Bally’s must maintain headquarters in Providence through 2043.
The two companies will make various investments that will result in the creation of a joint venture with IGT having a controlling 60 per cent stake in the new company and Twin River owning the remaining 40 per cent. The joint venture will be a licensed VLT provider and supply the entirety of the gaming machines to the Lottery. IGT-manufactured machines and multiple other manufacturers will supply the floor that will continue to be managed by an efficiency rating system.
A minimum annual replacement cycle will be set at six per cent with flexibility to replace up to eight per cent in any year. At least five per cent of the VLTs will be the highly popular premium machines to keep the gaming offering on par with regional competitors. The Rhode Island Division of Lotteries will continue to maintain oversight and regulation of all gaming. All aspects of the lottery and gaming programs will continue to be state-operated.
In addition, the amended legislation has been named the Marc A. Crisafulli Economic Development Act to honor the executive vice president of Bally’s, who is battling cancer.