So, you’re driving over the Newport Bridge. On the other side, the first thing that catches your eye is this:
If you have ever visited Newport Grand Slots, you will probably agree with me that hospitality and service is friendly, the two entertainment venues are good (featuring Tribute Bands in the large venue), the assortment of slots are adequate for a small casino, and the food options are good for it’s size, featuring a little gem in the small but delicious buffet on the lower level.
I have said all along that the future of this property is tenuous at best. The New England casino expansion, the addition of table games at Twin River (Newport voted against table games in Newport) and having two of the largest American casinos next door in Connecticut, (while Foxwoods & Mohegan Sun are still reeling in revenue declines) consistently puts pressure on keeping the doors to Newport Grand open.
Could there be hope on the horizon? Former Providence Mayor and Developer/Investor Joseph Paolino Jr. said with Newport Grand seeing a decline in revenue and jobs in recent years and with Foxwoods talking about building a $1 billion casino in Fall River., Mass., he’s in negotiations to buy Newport Grand and transform it into a world class establishment to make Newport and Rhode Island proud. Paolino, along with partners Peter de Savary and Paul Roiff, is in talks with the slot parlor’s owner Diane Hurley over a possible sale.
According to Mark Schieldrop, of the Middletown Patch, Paolino’s vision is to turn the former Newport Jai Alai into a boutique facility that reflects and enhances the local character of the city — something an outside investor would not be able to execute. He said, “Our interest is not to move it or make it into a Las Vegas style casino, but more of a boutique look…..It would look a lot nicer as a Monte Carlo-style casino and not a bunch of neon signs.” He noted that all three partners including himself have investments in Newport, including the von Bulow estate, The Carnegie Abbey Club and others. Among the three, they own restaurants and hotels in Boston in addition to experience owning casinos in London and Australia, to name just a few projects.
The deal hinges on whether table games will be allowed at Newport Grand, which Paolino said is pivotal to ensure the slots parlor stands a fighting chance as casino gambling expands in Massachusetts. It seems that sentiment in the summer destination might be changing, after seeing the loss of revenue from Newport Grand.
Revenues from the slot parlor are down substantially in recent years, generating about $25 million in revenue for the state — a far cry from the $50 million it used to garner according to Paolino’s figures. Newport receives about $1 million per year in revenue from Newport Grand. Meanwhile jobs have been reduced. Of the former 225 workers there, just 175 are left and 35 percent of those workers have seen hours cut.
And Foxwoods is now planning on building a new facility in Fall River as part of the Massachusetts expansion, hoping to get the license that the Mashpee Wampanoags having been after for years. That could be the the last straw for Newport.
Could this be the shot in the arm Newport Grand needs? Yes!
Will it become reality? I’m afraid it’s a long-shot. Mr. Paolino, has a tricky road dependent upon the addition of table games. It could be too little, too late.
That’s all for now.