PROVIDENCE — Rhode Islanders will face several referendums on this year's ballot that, if passed, would authorize casino games at two slot parlors, repair classrooms at Rhode Island College, and invest in water quality, open space preservation, and recreation facilities.
Tuesday's crowded ballot will also feature a question seeking permission to build additional affordable housing and a new state veterans' home.
It is the casino question, however, that has attracted the most attention and campaign spending. The Twin River and Newport Grand slot parlors want to add table games like poker and blackjack to compete with casinos now authorized to be built in nearby Massachusetts.
Rhode Island has long resisted efforts to authorize casino games, last defeating a casino referendum in 2006. Twin River and Newport Grand contribute about $300 million a year to state coffers. The facilities' owners say casinos in Massachusetts will threaten their business and the revenue for the state. They argue that by adding table games, however, they can generate additional revenue and economic activity for the economically battered state.
Twin River and Newport Grand have spent more than $4.3 million on their campaigns for the ballot questions, which must pass statewide and in the host communities. Of that total, Twin River's campaign organization had spent $3.9 million.
John Taylor Jr., chairman of the Twin River board of directors, said he is optimistic that voters understand what is riding on the casino referendum.
''In a state with the second-highest unemployment rate in the country, when we can go out and talk about protecting jobs and creating more jobs, the vast majority of people say this makes sense,'' he said. ''Slots will continue to be the core of our business, but clearly there are people who want to play tables.''
Opponents are hoping voters reject the idea. The Rev. Eugene McKenna, chairman of Citizens Concerned about Casino Gambling, said state leaders should find other ways of boosting the state's economy.