Op-Ed: Gov. McKee can do better. We hope he does.

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The IGT/Twin River legislation just passed by the House is a stacked deck against Rhode Island taxpayers. This “deal” overpays these multi-national corporations by $800 Million.

Although the legislation authorizes Gov. McKee to bypass public bidding laws and enter into this 20-year insider deal, he is neither required to, nor should. To protect taxpayers Gov. McKee should do the responsible thing and negotiate a better deal.

When then-Gov. Raimondo announced this deal in 2019, it was strictly for IGT – and it overpaid IGT nearly $400 million. Twin River spent months crying foul, publicly bashing the whole concept of a “no-bid deal” as unfair to taxpayers. Then, suddenly, IGT, Twin River and their 14 lobbyists forged an even worse deal for taxpayers that cut Twin River in on the action. Now both IGT and Twin River receive nearly $400 million apiece in overpayments. Twin River even shamelessly became the loudest cheerleader for this new deal, to the point the bill is now actually named after its lead negotiator.

Twin River’s $400 million in overpayments come from its 86.4 percent take from our table game revenues. The state owns the casino licenses, yet will only get 12.7 percent from the table games, compared to Massachusetts which collects a 25 percent tax from its private casino owners. Merely matching the Massachusetts rate, would net an additional $400 million.

IGT’s $400 million in overpayments comes in two buckets. First, Rhode Island is getting ripped off by paying IGT 2.5 percent of slot revenues for what an independent analyst described as an unnecessary computer system. In Kansas, IGT only gets 1% of slot revenues for their recently installed computer system. Matching Kansas would net an additional $156 million. Second, we will pay $221 million more to lease slot machines from IGT and Twin River than if we just purchased them – like 90 percent of casino owners across the country.

Democrats trumpet this as a “jobs saving bill,” which is not entirely accurate. The new legislation amends the state’s relationship with IGT to now count all sorts of non-employee independent contractors and outsourced staff towards its 1100 jobs mandate — such as its army of lobbyists. Worse, the penalty for IGT’s failure to meet the jobs mandate is merely $7,500 per job — although IGT/Twin River claimed during hearings that each job would benefit the State to the tune of $23,750. Why would the state agree to a penalty that is less than the benefit of its bargain?

Tellingly, every single Democrat but two, including nearly all so-called “progressives,” voted to approve this 20-year tech-based deal that epitomizes backroom dealing, corporate welfare, and crony capitalism. If your representative is a big fan of tax increases and “reform,” ask them why they voted to leave hundreds of millions of dollars on the table for two multi-national companies? How can they now be taken seriously when they protest about “equity” and “economic justice” and push to raise taxes on everything under the sun?

Thankfully, the General Assembly isn’t the last word. Gov. McKee is. We hope he takes this opportunity to build a lasting legacy — unsaddled by his predecessor’s bad deal — and fights to keep more of the profits from the People’s casinos to fund education, public safety, environmental protection, housing, transportation, infrastructure, and reduce our tax burden.

Blake A. Filippi, Rhode Island House Minority Leader

Michael W. Chippendale, Rhode Island House Minority Whip

Brian C. Newberry, Rhode Island House Representative

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