RI correspondent Miguel and I took a break from the July 4th celebration to visit the Newport Grand Slots casino in Newport, Rhode Island.
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.
The building now known as Newport Grand has struggled to be more relevant in a city that never really wanted it there. 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. See our previous post covering this Newport Grand City Agreement Negated
- 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.
According to staff, the facility should close by mid-summer of 2018.
Upon entering, we wondered if it was open. We were greeted by friendly staff, received our rewards card, and we were on our way, basically having the place to ourselves.
It has 3 floors – a 2nd floor smoking-allowed slot area, 1st floor for non-smoking gaming and lower floor that includes some slots, the Grille, and a bar featuring standard and some RI craft brews.
Did I mention it was small? Listed as the third smallest of New England’s casinos, it just might be the smallest. It was obvious to us that the 1000 slots couldn’t be a true number with three small rooms on the lower level unused and a more spacious main floor.
GAMING – while they have many new slots, there is also a treasure trove of nostalgic machines, including many of the VLT from the Jai Alai transition days. I counted 8 (yes, only 8) video poker machines, 6 multi-game with horrible pay tables and two Ultimate X. Don’t go to Newport Grand for video poker. The best game offered is 7/5 DDB on Ultimate X. There are also two of the older electronic Blackjack terminals, back to back, with a total of 10 seats. We did not see a High Limit area, but higher denomination slots are mixed in.
ENTERTAINMENT – on the weekends, Newport Grand still offers great tribute bands with some comedy acts as well in the Event Center. In the lounge downstairs, small combos still perform, as karaoke & trivia is still offered some week days.
CONCLUSION – We had a fun day at the casino on Independance Day. But, it was a little sad, too. There is no signage of the impending move, or even the change of ownership. The Twin River and Newport Grand rewards programs are not linked together, which would be an un-needed expense. I know that the new property in Tiverton will be a great addition to the casino landscape in New England. But at this time, the little casino that “could’ve been” is in a state of limbo – supported by its loyal local patrons and continued good service by the staff. But the inevitable end is in the air at Newport Grand. The ghosts of slots and Jai Alai past will soon be the only inhabitants in this building.
Take time to visit just once. It’s not the Riviera of Las Vegas, but it’s a piece of history in New England.