PROVIDENCE — The high-stakes battle over Rhode Island’s lottery contract intensified Tuesday as a major competitor entered the fray and the governor blasted the company that operates the state’s two casinos.
The action began when Twin River, which runs casinos in Lincoln and Tiverton, announced that it is partnering with Scientific Games, a major lottery company, in pushing the state to go out to bid for the lottery contract now held by IGT.
The day concluded with the state Senate Finance Committee holding a hearing on the proposed 20-year, $1-billion, no-bid extension of IGT’s contract.
Governor Gina M. Raimondo has pushed for the extension, emphasizing that it would ensure that more than 1,000 jobs remain in Rhode Island. She has said there are only three companies in the country capable of running the lottery, including IGT, which has Rhode Island roots.
But Scientific Games is another of those three companies, and Twin River touted it as “the only full-service lottery company headquartered in the United States.” (IGT has its global headquarters in London.)
Twin River had previously announced partnerships with the Camelot and Intralot gambling companies.
On Tuesday, Twin River executive vice president Marc Crisafulli said, “Today’s announcement that Scientific Games has joined Twin River is further proof that there is significant interest in bidding for Rhode Island’s lottery and gaming business, with virtually the entire global lottery industry now confirming that they will participate.”
The proposal from the Twin River “consortium” includes a commitment of 1,100 jobs in Rhode Island, with a $100 million guarantee if the group falls short of that commitment.
“We believe this is ultimately very good news for the Rhode Island taxpayers,” Crisafulli said.
But in an afternoon news conference, Raimondo dismissed Twin River’s latest announcement.
“It is almost laughable to me that it seems like every time Twin River has a hearing they pull another rabbit out of a hat,” she said. “They are still not in this business. They still are not qualified to do this contract. And they just keep saying, ‘No, we will partner with this firm and that firm and this firm.’ ”
Twin River should focus on its own business, Raimondo said, noting Twin River Worldwide Holdings agreed on Monday to pay the state $180,000 as part of settlement of a dispute over the company’s borrowing.
The state has said Twin River exceeded the debt ratio allowed under a regulatory agreement. Twin River has not admitted it breached the agreement but agreed to pay the $180,000 and boost spending on improvements to the Lincoln casino.
“I have serious concerns about the management at Twin River and their ability to run their own business, much less go after business that they are clearly unqualified to do and have no track record of doing,” Raimondo said. “So my advice to Twin River is: Focus on your knitting and get your own house in order.”
The governor called the Twin River consortium’s 1,100-job commitment “a fantasy.”
“Where are they going to come from?” Raimondo asked. “If we were to give a contract to Twin River to run the lottery, that would be reckless. It’s the third largest source of revenue for the state.”
Twin River spokeswoman Patti Doyle said the company had “an entirely different perspective” on the debt ratio dispute, but she said, “We opted to take the high road and agreed to the terms of the settlement.”
In response to Raimondo’s comments, Doyle said, “It’s unfortunate that she has that level of criticism for a company that is responsible for the state’s third largest source of revenue. By any standard, Twin River is a success story, with over 2,400 employees in Rhode Island alone.”
Raimondo “seems fixated on a special deal for IGT,” she said.
IGT spokesman Bill Fischer said, “With each hearing day at the State House, Twin River offers an announcement in an attempt to distract elected officials from the real point of these hearings.”
The IGT extension would allow the state to preserve 1,100 jobs and more than $320 million in economic activity, he said.
“Twin River is now claiming it will take a conglomeration of four entities, all seeking their share of profits, to replace the high quality services offered by IGT, the Rhode Island-based leader in the gaming industry,” Fischer said. “It is unfortunate that their level of desperation has reached such a low point.”