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House passes bill to double credit limit at Bally’s casinos

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House passes bill to double credit limit at Bally’s casinos

Jun 12, 2024 | 4:11 pm ET
By Christopher Shea
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House passes bill to double credit limit at Bally’s casinos
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House Finance Chairman Marvin Abney, a Newport Democrat, looks over a copy of the legislation to double the amount of credit Bally's patrons can borrow during debate on the House floor June 11, 2024. (Screenshot/CapitolTV)

A pair of bills to double the credit limit at Rhode Island’s two casinos cleared the State House Tuesday evening, but not without some confusion from lawmakers on what’s in the legislation — including from legislative leaders.

The House of Representatives voted 57-11 to pass an amended bill by Rep. Gregory Costantino, a Lincoln Democrat, and 55-11 to pass the identical bill sponsored by Sen. Frank Ciccone III, a Providence Democrat.

Ciccone’s bill was approved by the Senate on June 6.

Confusion on the House floor centered on a provision that would allow casino operator Bally’s Corp. to negotiate a new debt ratio with the state’s Division of Lottery and the Department of Business Regulation (DBR). Rep. Edith Ajello, a Providence Democrat, asked why that provision was not underlined in blue, as is standard practice to note new language to existing law. 

“I’m not sure exactly what you’re getting at,” responded House Finance Chairman Marvin Abney, a Newport Democrat. “Nothing was changed from the old law from where we are now.”

But the legislation does contain new language allowing Bally’s take on “net debt” instead of “gross debt.” House spokesperson Larry Berman said in an email Wednesday said this section was not underlined because it is a change to public law, not general law.

“The format used in the bill is the same format that has been used many times when authorizing an amendment to a contract between DBR/the Division of Lottery and the facility,” Berman said.

There was also brief discussion about the potential increase in problem gambling from expanding the maximum line of credit Bally’s can offer its customers, from $50,000 to $100,000. 

“People do still lose their homes, people do still have an addiction to gambling and $100,000 would be an awful amount of debt for some people,” said Rep. Patricia Morgan, a West Warwick Republican. “There should be an accreditation.”

The bill requires an application and vetting process based on personal income and credit history before extended credit is approved. 

Costantino’s bill is scheduled for a concurrence vote in the Senate on Thursday. Olivia DaRocha, a spokesperson for Gov. Dan McKee’s office, did not respond to multiple inquiries Wednesday whether the governor supports the legislation.