The state of Rhode Island announced the signing into law of the long-awaited Marc A. Crisafulli Economic Development Act. The act, which has been in development since 2019, is deemed to be a major turning point in the economic development of the state.
Senate President Dominick Ruggerio said:
“This deal secures additional economic development benefits for Rhode Island, better wages for Rhode Island workers, and enhances our gaming competitiveness. We thank our local partners for coming together to finalize this agreement. This is not only an important source of revenue for our state but employs thousands of Rhode Islanders and provides a great reason to visit Rhode Island.”
The agreement cements a 20-year agreement between Rhode Island, IGT and Bally’s Corporation which guarantees that both companies will continue to operate in the state and that Bally’s will invest in the upscaling of its Rhode Island-based properties.
The Benefits of the Legislation
Under the newly signed legislation the state will benefit from a development plan valued at more than $250 million, which will include:
- $100 million renovation and expansion of Twin River Casino Hotel, built by Rhode Island’s union workforce.
- Securing more than 1100 jobs at IGT with competitive salaries.
- The 8,000 sq./ft expansion of Bally’s HQ plus an additional 30 permanent job placements.
- The 50,000 sq./ft expansion of the Twin River casino focussing on the casino floor, spa, and food hall.
The agreement also formalises a 20-year agreement between Bally’s and IGT to establish a video lottery terminal ("VLT") entity that will become a provider of “gaming machines to the Rhode Island Division of Lotteries for Bally's Twin River Casino Hotel and Tiverton Casino Hotel”.
This will see Bally’s receive 7% of net income per machine in exchange for leasing 23% of all gaming floor machines to the Rhode Island Division of Lotteries. As of January 1, 2023, this will then increase up to 40% with a bonus scheme based on machine performance.
More Jobs but Fewer Workers
In celebration of the agreement Governor Dan McKee took to Facebook posting:
“We signed the Marc A. Crisafulli Economic Development Act into law, securing 1,100 jobs and a $250 million economic development investment in Rhode Island. Thank you, Joseph Shekarchi, Dominick Ruggerio, IGT Gaming, and Bally's Corporation for coming together to strengthen this agreement.”
While this investment in Rhode Island makes a lot of sense on paper looking at the comments on Governor McKee’s post highlighted an interesting problem – a growing concern that the current support system is too generous.
This view is supported by comments like:
- “We can't fill the jobs we have now because you keep paying them not to work.”
- “What a joke! All the current companies looking for help. More incentive to stay home and collect.”
- “… so many jobs available and no one to fill them.”
A report by US News put the amount made available to the local community via funding by the Rhode Island Foundation at nearly $8 million. At the peak of the pandemic these funds allowed families to put food on the table, however, in the current climate it appears to be encouraging lower-income groups to rather stay at home.
With the option of going back to work to earn $11.50 per hour, or $3.89 if you also get tips, versus claiming Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) where you can claim up to $600 per week many locals are choosing to stay home.
However, if this substantial investment in Rhodes Island is going to have the intended impact on the local economy this laissez-faire approach to working will need to be actively addressed by Governor McKee and his team.