LINCOLN, R.I. (WPRI) – Twin River Casino announced Tuesday it will seek permission to build a hotel on its property in Lincoln as part of an effort to stay competitive in the increasingly crowded local gambling market.
Twin River Chairman John E. Taylor Jr. went before the Lincoln Town Council to reveal that the company intends to ask the legislature to remove a prohibition preventing them from building a hotel.
With resort-style casinos being put up over the border in Massachusetts and Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun already established in Connecticut, Taylor said it may be the right time to construct a hotel in order to preserve revenue and jobs at Twin River.
“While we have always defined ourselves as a convenience casino, one that caters to customers who live within a 60-mile radius, we are motivated by two important factors,” he said.
“The first is that there is no denying that the New England gaming landscape has changed dramatically in the last two years,” he continued. “In a few short months we will begin to compete against a Massachusetts ‘racino’ just 12 miles from our front door. Within another 18 months, we will be competing against destination casinos owned by premier operator Steve Wynn just outside of Boston and MGM in Springfield.”
“The second is that more and more of our customers tell us they would like the option to play, dine and then stay overnight at Twin River,” he added.
Twin River said the hotel will feature 150 to 250 rooms and stand no taller than four stories, which is the maximum height of the existing facility. It would be adjacent to the casino, and feature room service, meeting rooms, and a spa.
Joy Fox, a spokeswoman for Gov. Gina Raimondo, immediately expressed interest in the idea.
“As our neighboring states look to draw revenue and economic development from Rhode Island, we need to examine every possible way to remain competitive,” Fox said. “We look forward to learning more about the proposal.”
Larry Berman, a spokesman for House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, suggested the General Assembly will give the idea a serious hearing. “Speaker Mattiello is open to any proposal that will help protect our state’s third-largest revenue source, while considering the hospitality industry at large,” he said.
Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed said lawmakers “will need to process cautiously” in reviewing the hotel proposal. “I share the desire to do everything that is prudent to protect this important revenue source, which benefits all Rhode Island taxpayers,” she said. “At the same time, I would certainly be sensitive to any concerns of the broader hospitality industry.”
Tuesday’s announcement marks a change of heart for Twin River management compared with a year ago, when Taylor said during an interview on Executive Suite that a hotel wasn’t in the cards.
“Way back when we first started the campaign [to add table games], one of our advisers – a pretty smart kind of market-sizing group came and said, look, you’re a convenience casino and you’re probably always going to be a convenience casino,” he said. “And that’s how we’re operating, and that’s how we’re kind of thinking about the market.”
But Taylor did hedge his statement slightly in the same interview. “We are continuing to listen to our players about what they want, what they need, to want to continue to come to us. Is a hotel something that we would consider at some point in the future? Absolutely. But at this point we don’t see it as part of our overall amenity mix now.”
A spokesperson for Twin River said Tuesday the casino has long pledged to bring any plan for a hotel before the people of Lincoln first. She said the town council has scheduled a Feb. 24 public hearing for Twin River to share its proposal with residents.
Below is an aerial view of the proposal provided by JCJ Architecture:
Ted Nesi contributed to this report.