- Associated Press - Thursday, October 13, 2016

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Rhode Island’s November ballot includes seven ballot questions, but only the Question 1 casino measure has been dominating air time on broadcast television.

More than $370,000 has been spent for about 300 broadcast TV ads supporting the Tiverton casino proposal, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity, based on data from Kantar Media/CMAG. The center released its findings Thursday.

That’s an expense of about 50 cents per eligible state voter by the group Citizens to Create Jobs and Create Revenue Inc., formed by casino operator Twin River Management Group to support the ballot measure that would allow a new casino to be built near the Massachusetts border. The group wants to close its aging Newport casino and transfer its gambling license to Tiverton.

Kantar monitors media markets around the country and offers a widely accepted estimate of the money spent to air each spot. The data measures broadcast TV advertising, but not cable TV, radio or online ads, or the amount spent to create the ads.

Of the 22 states where money has been spent on TV ads for statewide ballot initiatives since January, Rhode Island ranks near the bottom, at 18th. In neighboring Massachusetts, second only to California in spending, groups for and against a charter school ballot measure have spent a combined $18.4 million on television ads. Some of those ads appear on Rhode Island stations to reach viewers who live in southeastern Massachusetts. There’s also been about $1 million spent on TV ads supporting a Massachusetts measure to legalize recreational marijuana.

Other statewide ballot campaigns in Rhode Island, such as the “Yes on 7” campaign for an affordable housing bond, said they are skipping traditional TV ads and opting for a social media strategy using streaming videos. That’s a change from 2012, when a similar housing bond campaign used TV ads for its cause.

At least one Rhode Island campaign hadn’t yet started. Proponents of seaport infrastructure bond Question 5 said they planned to launch their first TV ads on Thursday.

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