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R.I. Senate approves doubling credit limit at Bally’s casinos


R.I. Senate approves doubling credit limit at Bally’s casinos

Jun 07, 2024 | 2:56 pm ET
By Christopher Shea
R.I. Senate approves doubling credit limit at Bally’s casinos
Patrons cross the casino floor at Bally’s Twin River Lincoln on the afternoon of Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)

Legislation doubling how much money high-roller patrons at Bally’s Twin River Lincoln and Tiverton casinos can borrow cleared the Rhode Island Senate Thursday evening.

The chamber voted 28-5 to pass an amended bill by Sen. Frank Ciccone III, a Providence Democrat, that increases the maximum line of credit Bally’s can offer its customers from $50,000 to $100,000. Voting against were Democrats Sam Bell of Providence, Tiara Mack of Providence, Joshua Miller of Cranston, Linda Ujifusa of Portsmouth, and Bridget Valverde of North Kingstown.

The bill, which was co-sponsored by Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, was filed on behalf of Providence-based Bally’s Corporation to keep the state’s casinos on par with neighboring states, Ciccone said on the Senate floor.

“Most facilities in other states have allowances to exceed the credit much larger than this,” he said.

Since 2014, when table games were first introduced at Twin River, the maximum credit cap has been $50,000. Massachusetts has no limit on lines of credit. Connecticut’s two tribal-run casinos, Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, also have no borrowing cap.

Some opponents of Ciccone’s legislation fear that raising the credit limit to $100,000 might contribute to problem gambling.  

“This is bad — going into debt from gambling is dangerous,” said Sen. Sam Bell, a Providence Democrat who was among the five dissenting votes. “We should not maximize profit when it comes to an addictive product.”

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

Ciccone’s bill also drew opposition from the Rhode Island Lottery, which manages state rules and revenue from gambling including at its casinos, just ahead of its committee vote June 4.

Lottery Director Mark Furcolo protested a provision that would allow Bally’s to negotiate a new debt ratio with the state’s Division of Lottery and the Department of Business Regulation — something Elizabeth Suever, Bally’s Vice President of Government Relations, previously said would allow the company to take out additional credit as it constructs a new casino in Chicago.

Furcolo’s primary concern was that gambling regulators would be required to accept the “methodology for calculating restrictions and limitations used in other Bally’s debt agreements.”

“Not only are the particular ‘other debt agreements’ not specified in the Substitute A, but the Rhode Island Lottery and the Department of Business Regulation would be bound to a methodology determined by non-State actors,” Furcolo wrote. “Namely lenders who have a much different interest in Bally’s than the state and who have much different remedies available to them in the event that Bally’s runs into financial trouble.”

Ciccone introduced a floor amendment to remove the clause referring to other debt agreements, though the amended bill still allows for changes to how the debt ratio is calculated.

Furcolo had no comment on the legislation passed by the Senate, said Department of Revenue spokesperson Paul Grimaldi. 

“We are grateful for the Senate’s support on this legislation and look forward to the House’s review next week,” Bally’s spokesperson Patti Doyle said in an emailed statement Friday.

The bill also originally included a change to the way Bally’s can use promotional points, but that language was struck before it was advanced out of committee.

Companion legislation, sponsored by Rep. Gregory Costantino, a Lincoln Democrat, remains under review in the House Committee on Finance following a May 23 hearing.

If you or somebody you know is dealing with gambling issues, contact Problem Gambling Services, which can be reached 24/7 at (401) 499-2472.

This story was updated to include comment from Bally’s spokesperson Patti Doyle.