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GOP files ethics complaint against Raimondo in casino spat

Target 12

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Rhode Island Republican Party on Wednesday filed an ethics complaint against Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo related to her dealings with gaming giant IGT.

Rhode Island GOP attorney Brandon Bell filed the complaint with the R.I. Ethics Commission, raising issue with the state’s proposed 20-year contract extension with IGT, formerly known as GTECH, along with the R.I. Lottery’s contract allowing the company to handle the state’s online sports betting – both negotiated without a competitive-bidding process.

Bell also raised issue with Raimondo’s business dealings with IGT lobbyist Donald Sweitzer, who formerly served as the company’s chairman and currently works for the national Democratic Governors Association, which is headed by Raimondo.

“Raimondo’s DGA business associate relationship with Sweitzer creates significant conflicts of interest for Raimondo under the Rhode Island Ethics Code,” Bell wrote in the complaint.  

Josh Block, a spokesperson for Raimondo called the complaint a “partisan attack attempting to derail proposed legislation that would guarantee jobs for 1,100 Rhode Islanders, secure hundreds of millions in local investment, and generate $80 billion in revenue for the State.”

“Each element of the proposed legislation will go through a thorough and public vetting,” Block said in an email.

The GOP complaint focuses specifically on Sweitzer and his relationship with Raimondo. Bell alleges the former IGT chairman, who retired last year, most likely has a financial stake in the company worth more than $5,000.

If that’s the case, Bell wrote, his simultaneous business relationship with Raimondo through the DGA means the state cannot enter into an agreement with IGT, “unless the contract has been awarded through an open and public process,” according to the complaint.

State lawmakers last month proposed legislation to extend a 20-year contract with IGT first signed in 2003, which would keep the company and at least 1,100 employees in its Providence headquarters for another two decades.

The company, meanwhile, could continue to collect about $50 million in revenue each year earned primarily on slot games played at the state’s two casinos operated by Twin River in Lincoln and Tiverton.

The proposed deal, which the General Assembly is expected to decide on during a special legislative session this fall, quickly became embroiled in debate after it surfaced in the final days of the regular session.

Twin River came out against proposed deal and criticized the state for not putting it out for other companies to bid. Public documents obtained by Target 12 later showed Twin River sought its own no-bid contract months earlier, which was rejected by the state.  

A group called Keeping Jobs in Rhode Island has since formed to oppose Twin River and advocate for the IGT deal.

Eli Sherman (esherman@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter for WPRI 12. Follow him on Twitterand on Facebook.

Ted Nesi contributed to this report.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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