STATE HOUSE -- While Gov. Don Carcieri is calling for the state to get a bigger share of the proceeds from the state's two gaming venues, Rep. William San Bento Jr. (D-Dist. 58) of Pawtucket and North Providence has a plan to generate a bigger take right now.
"Allowing the slot machines in use at Lincoln (Greyhound) and Newport (Jai Alai) to pay off in coins instead of vouchers could be a major and immediate financial windfall for the state," said Representative San Bento, who has again this year introduced a bill to allow video lottery machines to dispense coins, cash or tokens.
That alone, he said, will generate more interest and more betting on the machines and will keep gamblers in Rhode Island instead of running to venues across state lines. "People love to hear the clink of coins in the tray when they win."
Although similar legislation was rejected in prior years that he introduced it, Representative San Bento believes enough has changed to give his bill a greater chance of success in 2003.
"With the prospect of a casino in Massachusetts, and with our state's continuing fiscal problems, we need to act now to ensure that Lincoln and Newport remain competitive and continue to generate revenue for the state.
While he acknowledged there is no assurance allowing video lottery machines to dispense coins will bring in extra money, he remains convinced such a simple but quite audible change could result in $25 million to $50 million more clinking into the state's revenue tray. That's due, Representative San Bento believes, to a combination of additional spending on the machines and money recouped from gamblers who would otherwise travel to casinos outside the state.
"This is not a 'gambling' bill," said Representative San Bento. "This is not an 'expansion of gambling' bill. This is a bill about generating more revenue for our state at a time that we need it by making a small change in the way existing gaming establishments are allowed to operate."
"No matter what else may happen in Rhode Island in the future in regard to gaming, this is a means to immediately generate more state revenue. I cannot believe that we would thumb our collective noses at $25 million to $50 million more simply because coins instead of vouchers are being dispensed by these machines," he said.
The possibility of more slot machines at the two parks -- the Lottery Commission has not yet acted on an expansion proposal before it -- merely increases the chance of more state revenue at a time when, at least to Representative San Bento, every penny is important. "This is extra money that could one way or another help every person in our state. I'd like to see us get it," he said.
The bill, <a href="http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText03/HouseText03/H5019.htm
" target="new">(2003 - H5019)</a> is co-sponsored by Rep. Joseph A. Faria (D-Dist. 56) of Central Falls; Rep. Arthur J. Corvese (D-Dist. 55) of North Providence; Rep. Jan Malik (D-Dist. 67) of Warren and Barrington, and Rep. Kenneth Carter (D-Dist. 31) of Exeter and North Kingstown. It has been referred to the House Committee on Finance.