- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 5, 2014

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - The prospective developer of a casino at Newport Grand said Wednesday he’s still considering investing in the property even though voters rejected a proposal to add table games.

A ballot question on permitting table games at the slots parlor was approved statewide Tuesday but rejected in Newport. It needed majority approval of both statewide and local voters to pass.

Former Providence Mayor Joseph R. Paolino Jr. said moving forward with the project isn’t out of the question, but it’s more of a challenge now for Newport Grand to remain competitive with other area casinos.

Paolino said he worries that the Newport Grand employees he got to know during the campaign will lose their jobs if the slots parlor is not revamped.

“I’m not a quitter and I want to see if we can create jobs and save the jobs that are there,” he said.

Paolino, who is partnering with developers Peter de Savary and Paul Roiff, said they would spend $40 million to turn the slots parlor into an “entertainment complex,” but only if it could add table games. Two years ago, statewide voters approved expanding Newport Grand into a full casino but local voters didn’t.

Paolino said he wants to “crunch the numbers” with Newport Grand’s longtime owner, Diane S. Hurley, to figure out if the entertainment center could still be financially feasible, without table games.

A leader of the anti-casino movement in Newport, Dawn Euer, said they would welcome that kind of investment.

“It would be wonderful if they were to do something to invest in the property and be able to make it a successful business model,” said Euer, the political director for Citizens Concerned About Casino Gambling. “The problem we have, really, is with the table games.”

Newport Mayor Harry Winthrop supported adding table games because he worries Newport Grand will eventually close. Nearly 200 people work there and the city receives about $425,000 annually in gambling revenues, which is down from about $800,000 annually before the recession, he said.

Winthrop said he’s happy to hear that Paolino didn’t decide to walk away after Tuesday’s vote. While the city would not receive more gambling revenues from an entertainment center, Winthrop said, it would get additional real estate taxes from building upgrades and the project could protect and create jobs.

Winthrop lost his bid for a sixth two-year term on the Newport City Council Tuesday, which he attributes to his support for table games. He said Wednesday he “got swept out” with the casino vote.

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