Newport City Council rejects host community agreement

NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) – Newport city councilors voted 4-3 on Wednesday night to reject a host community agreement struck with Jobs for Newport, the investment group behind a proposed $40 million table game expansion at Newport Grand.

At Wednesday’s meeting, councilors had asked for the agreement to guarantee additional revenues beyond what is already contained in state law. The agreement would also haven given Newport workers and vendors first preference in hiring.

Several residents who spoke on Wednesday night argued the host community agreement was non-binding, and questioned whether investors would follow through.

“If Mr. Paolino really wants to back up his promises, why doesn’t he and his fellow millionaires make themselves personally liable on this agreement?” said Newport resident Roland Chase at Wednesday’s meeting.

Mayor Harry Winthrop, one of the three to vote in favor, said the city passed up on added protection.

“We get life insurance, but we don’t want to die; We get health insurance, we don’t want to get sick; We get car insurance, but we don’t want to get in a car accident. Well we need casino insurance,” he said.

Former Providence mayor and developer Joe Paolino said the decision was more about election year politics and overall casino opposition than it was about the actual agreement.

“It had nothing to do with the merits. A lot of it is politics. I understand it, I have a pretty thick skin and let’s just keep on,” he said. “We have six weeks to go. Let the people decide.”

Mayor Winthrop told Eyewitness News that another host community agreement will not come before the council between now and election day.

In 2012, Rhode Island voters approved table games in Newport, though local voters rejected them.

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