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Bet on it

High-stakes games in Newport; I-195 opens the books; flushed in Brazil
By PHILLIPE AND JORGE  |  May 7, 2014

The old saying goes that there is no such thing as being “a little bit pregnant.”

But the Biggest Little seems to be in that position with casino gambling, considering Twin River installed table games thanks to a 2012 statewide vote, while Newport Grand was denied permission to go the table-game route by a local vote against it. So the northern part of Little Rhody has a rather large baby bump, while on Aquidneck Island they are claiming to still be virginal.

But former Providence mayor Joe Paolino and his partners evidently think there are times when “no” doesn’t mean “no.”

Boy Joe and his rich guy pals, Peter de Savary and Paul Roiff, have signed a conditional agreement to buy Newport Grand from its current owner if Newport voters allow table games to be installed. This will require a ballot referendum on that question in November, a move that the City Council must approve later this month.

The last referendum was quashed by voters, led by the local Citizens Concerned About Casino Gambling and the individual effort (and bucks) of activist/sailing junkie Elizabeth Meyer, founder of Newport’s International Yacht Restoration School. Obviously Boy Joe and Co. think that given another bite of the cherry — and with the threat of Massachusetts bringing a full-blown casino to Fall River, mere spitting distance from Newport — voters will realize that there’s no difference in people losing their money at blackjack and craps versus high-tech one-armed bandits. Add in a little revenue directed into aching local coffers through jobs and consumer traffic, and that green felt begins to look mighty inviting.

Paolino’s group has promised to keep Newport Grand in its same location and spruce up what de Savary described as a “big ugly shed” by renovating it in classic Newport style and adding a performance center, fine restaurants, and a spa. Opponents may say that it doesn’t matter: gambling is still an evil. But that bird has flown via Twin River, and anything that could make Newport look a little better and keep the Fall Reeve wolf at bay seems worth new consideration.

And if Boy Joe’s poll of local voters is correct, break out the dice.

On second thought. . .

Why is it that anyone involved in Rhode Island politics has to act like the child who gets caught stealing or breaking something, hides it behind his back while being accosted by the angry parents, and responds to their question of “What’s that you’re hiding?” by saying “Nothing” until finally producing the guilt-proving evidence, usually in a torrent of tears (crocodile or otherwise)?

It’s the same situation across the board among Vo Dilun power brokers, where you have to browbeat, publicly embarrass, or even slap the crap out of public officials or agencies to get a truthful answer.

This was the scenario surrounding the highly touted Interstate 195 Redevelopment District Commission, which until May 5 had been concealing anything but winning bids for its former highway land parcels. Prior to that date, the name of anyone who put in a failed bid for a land purchase was kept under tight wraps, for god knows what unfathomable reason, unless it was a desire to make everyone involved look like backroom dealmakers with something to hide.

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