The week before Tiverton’s financial town referendum (FTR), I reported that state estimates of revenue from the Twin River casino in Tiverton were based on a September 1 opening — a full month before earlier estimates and two months before the date that some preferred for local purposes. The budget that I submitted, Budget #2, which would have reduced the tax levy by 2.9% and finally brought our tax rate back into line with neighboring Portsmouth’s, used the September 1 estimate (although with revenue estimates still lower than the latest from the state).
Well, wouldn’t you know it, the week after the town government’s higher-tax budget won the referendum, with questions about casino revenue front and center, Twin River could no longer contain its enthusiasm and proclaimed:
Twin River beat the odds and will get gamblers to the tables a month earlier than expected.
John Taylor Jr., chairman of Twin River Management Group, said the casino will open on Sept. 1 instead of the previous forecast of an Oct. 1 opening.
In the past, the elector petitions have tended to win by 60% versus 40%, but this year Budget #2 lost roughly 45% to 55%. The Budget #1 advocates managed to erode or eliminate the typical margin relying heavily on exaggerated warnings about what would happen if the assumed casino revenue didn’t materialized. The victory, however, arguably came from the defection of people who typically vote for the lower-tax budgets but found use of the casino revenue to conflict with their conservative inclinations.
In fairness, on our side of the aisle, when we talk about government projects, we tend to assume that they can never come in on time. In this case, that assumption misses the key fact that the state government is relying on this revenue. Roads, bridges, and public works projects can take forever because the money is endless and the economic downsides primarily hit the private sector. The casino is part of a race to get ahead of the competition with other states.
Twin River’s optimism may still prove to be misplaced, but it looks unlikely, and frankly, my expectation is that the initial revenue estimate for the town is likely to prove to be about half what comes in. We’ll see.