Farewell, Newport Grand – A Look Back

Yes, it’s small and it doesn’t take long to look around each floor.

Yes, the outside looks more like a warehouse than a casino, but renovations over the years tried to keep the vision of a classy casino in Newport was kept alive.

Before Twin River Management bought it over a year ago, it was a family operation – owned and managed by CEO Diane Hurley.

Quiet morning at Newport Grand

The building now known as Newport Grand has struggled to be more relevant in a city that never really wanted it there.

Thirty years ago, the 3,000 seat Newport Grand Jai Alai fronton was packed with fans who came to wager on the legendary Saez and other players.  Then, VLT’s were added to make it part casino, but the games were nothing like those you’d see in casinos now.

I remember those days.  I would visit greyhound racing in Plainfield, CT as well as Hartford and Newport Jai Alai. The game of Jai Alai was impressive to watch with the pelota being hurled at the three-sided wall at over 130 MPH. But betting on humans always made me leery.

Inside the fronton, team matches underway.

It’s recent past disappointments included:

  • The addition of tables games voted down by the city of Newport (at the time under Hurley ownership) while  Lincoln RI approved tables games for Twin River casino.
  • The renovation and expansion of Newport Grand, with table games denied by Newport.
  • Mayor Paolino led a push for voter approval of table games at Newport Grand last year leading up to the November election. Newport voters rejected two ballot questions that would have paved the way for the slot parlor to evolve into a full-fledged casino, converting the existing building into a luxury, Monte Carlo-esque high end resort with entertainment.
  • Finally, TRM bought Newport with the intentions of moving operations to Tiverton as a new full casino with hotel to compete with Massachusetts casino expansion, namely Plainridge Park Racino just over the border in Plainville, MA.

So, we will be bidding adieu to this warehouse-like building, some say by the end of June.  It is expected to be flattened.  But, I will remember it fondly, even though it was never all it could been. Adios.

Binbin

2 thoughts on “Farewell, Newport Grand – A Look Back

  1. binbin415 says:

    Thanks for the kind words. I love hearing from you. I agree that when visiting, it always seemed it could be more. Looking forward to visiting Tiverton when it opens. Thanks again, Monika.

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  2. Monika M. Wahi, MPH, CPH says:

    Binbin, thank you as always for this walk through history. In the past 10 years, I have visited this casino a few times when I have been in the town of Newport, and it always disappointed me. Your column helps me understand why. Let’s hope we see improvement in its new iteration in Tiverton!

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