One step forward, two steps back

By Arlene Violet
Posted 10/25/19

Good grief! Rhode Island politics can be maddening. One day a citizen can be cheering for a good decision and the next day shaking one’s head. Here are some examples:IGT CONTRACT HEARINGS. …

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One step forward, two steps back


Good grief! Rhode Island politics can be maddening. One day a citizen can be cheering for a good decision and the next day shaking one’s head. Here are some examples:

IGT CONTRACT HEARINGS. Certainly, it was a step in the right direction for legislators to hold hearings about the “deal” struck between IGT and the governor. Yet, it is mystifying why virtually no important questions centered on the performance of the IGT contract to date from its inception in 2003. The past is prologue to the future. As Alan Hassenfeld has posited, why not begin with a review of how IGT has performed during its 17 years of the present 20-year contract? For example, at least 5 times, The Providence Journal documented that the company did NOT meet its employment goals of 1000 jobs.

How much did IGT earn vs the state, particularly with the recent disclosure that the IGT slots were returning an average of 65 percent? In places like Las Vegas, the returns are in the 90 percent-plus range. Casinos sponsored by Indian tribes in New England are in the high 80s to mid 90 percent. While these machines increased the return to IGT, what exactly was the impact of such a low return on the state portion because of any defection of slot players to other casinos paying a higher return? When the return was finally under scrutiny by Twin River rather than the state authorities, the public learned of the dismal payoffs and the age and themes of slot machines no longer in vogue.

Most importantly, what technological advances did IGT implement? As Mr. Hassenfeld pointed out, the rapid changing field of technology requires tech fixes and rapid adaptation. The only public information was that IGT traded upgrades in exchange for a deal involving the scratch tickets. What, if any, other upgrades were deferred to the detriment of the state’s take?

As with everything in Rhode Island whenever a knowledgeable Rhode Islander asks questions the citizen is attacked. Alan Hassenfeld’s questions were so on target that the attack missiles were aimed at him. As a board member retiree of Hasbro he was attacked on the basis that Hasbro had a license with an IGT competitor. In fact, Hasbro has about 500 licensees per year, including IGT. The attack was to divert from the important questions as to whether casino gaming will still be around in 20 years, and what if any, escape clauses does the state need from such a long term contract.

GOVERNOR GINA RAIMONDO- Kudos to the governor for nixing the Dept. of Motor vehicle’s plan to charge a $15 per person customer service fee to the poor unfortunates who queue up in person. In fact, free passes should be handed out for a shrink visit after a citizen endures the gauntlet at the registry. Plenty of folks, including senior citizens, don’t do online nor do they want or can afford to pay the premium fee charged for conducting business on line. Charging for the inefficiencies the public endures truly constitutes a cruel and inhuman punishment! To also extend the charge to those who use AAA offices is the height of ridiculousness. Folks already pay an annual fee to use AAA services. Enough said!

Arlene Violet is an attorney and former Rhode Island Attorney General.

Arlene Violet

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.