Two Giants’ Gaming Wars in Rhode Island

The heat is on! Is the proposed IGT deal in jeopardy?

Just before the General Assembly ended their legislative session, it was announced that a no bid contract deal with lottery giant IGT was reached.

There was talk of a special session in the fall to confirm the $1 billion legislative deal reached between IGT officials, Governor Gina Raimondo, Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, and Senate President Domenic Ruggerio. But that seems to be put on hold for now.

The governor has stated that IGT provides over 1,000 jobs and losing the contract with them would mean loss of those jobs here in Rhode Island. She added  that only three companies in the country provide the same services as IGT.

Meanwhile, after the deal was announced, officials at Twin River Casino decided that they should be able to bid on this billion-dollar contract. Spokesperson for Twin River Patti Doyle made a statement in Providence Business News…“to give one gaming company monopoly control of the machines on the casino floor is unprecedented in the industry and is significantly harming Rhode Island taxpayers.”

Doyle is also a spokesperson for Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, which makes this all the more interesting.

In the past several weeks, we have seen a flurry of advertisements by Twin River saying the IGT contract extension should be put to bid. Twin River claims they can provide the same services as IGT by contracting out some services. But will contracting out these services cost the state more? The governor has repeatedly said that IGT is the only RI company that can fulfill the contract specifications. She also stated that losing 1,000 jobs to another state could be detrimental to Rhode Island. IGT has started a media blitz of their own, “Keeping jobs in RI,” and claiming RI would lose 1,100 jobs. They also state that Twin River cannot handle the technology.

Twin River has hired some of Rhode Island’s biggest “top guns” as lobbyists. On the list are names such as: David Cruise, George Caruolo, Matt Jerzyk, Chris Boyle, and William Farrell. All are well known in state circles and politically connected. Their mission is to lobby for Twin River and possibly change the minds of Speaker Mattiello and Senate President Domenic Ruggerio.

The lobbyists hired by IGT are: company execs Donald Sweitzer and Michael Mello, Robert Goldberg, Andrew Annaldo, Peter Baptista, Erich Haslehurst, Gayle Wolf, Kevin Horan, and Stephanie L. Federico. Most lobbyists are paid between $3,000 and $5,000 a month.

State law does require that contracts such as this be put out to bid and that the award go to the “lowest responsible bidder.” The speaker has said recently that he would like to see further studies of the proposed contract and public hearings. Could Mattiello be changing his mind?

Governor Raimondo told the Providence Journal on Friday that she has no intention of a further study. “I think it is a risk, and I think we have to do everything we can to keep them here. This is a good deal on the table. It deserves a public vetting. … I respect the legislative process. I respect that. But let’s take action. We can’t risk losing [IGT].”

So where does that leave the deal? Right smack in the middle of a big controversy. To bid or not to bid? Both sides are in a tug of war with powerful advocates in their corner.

The governor has a good working relationship with IGT and compliments their past performance and job stability in Rhode Island. Twin River has a good working relationship with the General Assembly that they have built over the years, as the state’s gaming partner.

All this has resulted in the “Gaming Wars” of these two gaming giants. Does anyone care to bet on who will win? Stay tuned as Rhode Island awaits to see who the winners and losers are in this deal.


Joanne Giannini served as a RI  State Representative from Providence (Democrat-District 7, Mt. pleasant/Elmhurst)  from 1994 to 2010. She has previously written commentaries for the Providence Journal and the Federal Hill Gazzette, GoLocal Prov, And RI News Review. During her tenure in the General Assembly, she made appearances on CNN network news, Primetime news and American Morning regarding legislation she filed in Rhode Island.

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