CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — A group of Rhode Island business owners are urging state leaders to support a 20-year contract extension proposed for gaming giant IGT, saying the company moving elsewhere could hurt the local economy.
The concern stems from a controversial 20-year contract extension deal proposed for the company – formerly known as GTECH – which is being considered by state leaders. IGT’s current lease is scheduled to expire in 2023.
Under the proposed deal, negotiated between the business and top aides of Democratic Governor Gina Raimondo, the company would agree to keep its headquarters in Providence through 2043 and keep more than 1,000 jobs in the state while operating 85% of the state’s slot machines.
Raimondo told Eyewitness News earlier this month she believes if the deal falls apart, the company and those jobs may leave the state.
The group of business owners held a press conference in Cranston saying they are concerned by the idea of IGT moving, underscoring how it could negatively impact their livelihoods.
“Small, veteran-owned businesses like mine count on strong, long-term relationships with larger companies,” said Mark Murtagh, managing partner of Cranston-based Corvus Technology Solutions. “Too often in Rhode Island, we read more about those big companies moving out of state or choosing to be somewhere else.”
“I’m proud to have my company headquartered in Rhode Island since 1996, but if IGT were to leave, it would surely have a deleterious effect on our local economy and certainly would make it additionally difficult to continue to grow our firm,” CEO of Millenium Consulting Paul Hansen added.
The deal, if approved, would not go out to bid. Twin River Worldwide Holdings, which operates Rhode Island’s two casinos in Lincoln and Tiverton, has advocated for an open bidding process, saying it should be given a chance to compete for the contract.
A Twin River spokesperson released a statement, saying, “We have repeatedly said that if the contract was opened up to a competitive bid process as required by law, we would form a partnership or consortium with other gaming and technology entities to aggressively compete.”
Twin River doesn’t specialize in providing gaming technology, but Scientific Games — one of IGT’s biggest competitors in the United States — recently hired a lobbyist to keep track of gambling discussions in Rhode Island.
Nonetheless, the pro-IGT business group raised doubts about Twin River’s ability to effectively compete in this part of the gambling industry.
“Quite frankly, I think they’re ill-equipped to actually even consider proposing or bidding on a project like this,” Hansen said.
The proposed deal for IGT would have to be approved by the General Assembly. Earlier this week, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio sent a letter to Raimondo seeking more information about the proposed deal.
They plan to hold committee hearings to vet the proposal this fall.
Eli Sherman contributed to this report.