LINCOLN, R.I. (WPRI) ─ After previously deciding to keep them open, state officials have now opted to close the two state-owned casinos operated by Twin River.
The decision comes just days after the company said both Lincoln’s Twin River Casino Hotel and Tiverton Casino Hotel would remain open, although scheduled concerts and other large events were already being postponed.
Lottery Director Gerry Aubin said the decision ─ which has significant implications for the state budget ─ was made after consulting with the R.I. Department of Health.
The two casinos employ roughly 2,500 workers, and those who are directly affected will be eligible for unemployment benefits, according to Aubin.
“A limited number of employees will remain at the facilities to secure, sanitize, and maintain them,” he said.
Aubin said the casinos are expected to be closed for one week, “at which point the situation will be reassessed based on the most up-to-date data and guidance from the R.I. Department of Health.”
“We sincerely regret any inconvenience to our customers,” Twin River President Marc Crisafulli said in a statement. “However, the state’s efforts to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus are of paramount importance. We believe this preventative approach is a necessary step to help ensure the health and safety of our employees, customers, and all Rhode Islanders.”
During the closure, Crisafulli said, “additional protective measures” for customers will be implemented. He said the company also hopes to continue other projects during the closure, such as the construction of a new Italian restaurant called Longo’s Meatballs & Martinis.
The two casinos are important money makers for both Twin River Worldwide Holdings, a publicly-traded company, and the state. Gambling revenue covers about $400 million of the roughly $10 billion annual state budget, making it the third-largest source of state funding.
Hours before the closure announcement, Twin River executives warned investors in a regulatory filing that “the ongoing outbreak of the COVID-19 virus threatens the return of a recessionary environment that, should it occur and continue, could materially and adversely impact our business.”
Twin River previously closed the Lincoln casino during a blizzard in January 2015, marking the first time that had happened since it became a 24/7 operation, according to Twin River’s then-executive chairman John Taylor Jr.
“We don’t have locks on the door,” Taylor said on WPRI 12’s Executive Suite at the time. “We actually had to go out and get chains to lock the place up.”