Bally’s Twin River in Lincoln, Rhode Island, has been the flagship of Twin River Worldwide Holdings, now known as Bally’s. It has undergone many additions and transformations, from horse racing and greyhound racing to a full casino with a hotel and entertainment venue. Twin River Casino was the first property to introduce New England to sports betting. It is now betting on itself to become more relevant in the New England and American gambling landscape. On April 25th, Bally’s Twin River Lincoln opened its new gaming area. It was time for a Bally’s Expansion and Trip Report.
Related Post – Gambling in Rhode Island, The Ocean State
Bally’s Twin River Lincoln Expands
Bally’s head of Rhode Island operations, Craig Eaton, explained its significance.
“Our expanded gaming floor, combined with other property improvements, represents a $100 million investment in Rhode Island to generate much-needed revenue for our home state. In addition, our expanded footprint blends with the existing facility design, incorporating several feng shui principles, such as the large waterfall.”
Initially, developers said the expansion would include 40 thousand square feet of gaming floor and improved dining areas. Supposedly, much of the second-floor gaming would go to the first floor, opening up space upstairs for amenities such as a bowling alley, mini-golf course, and dining.
The only difference upstairs during the expansion right now is that all dining is closed except Shipyard Brew Pub, all table games are removed, and the Poker Room is down to no more than eight tables (usually less). All seats for Poker are first come, first served during the hours 10 AM – 2 AM.
First Step – Spa Addition
Earlier this year, Bally’s opened Spa Light – International Spa, the region’s largest Korean-inspired Spa comprising 14,000 square feet. The Spa offers various services, including massages, body scrubs, facials, skincare, and lash services. It also features luxurious saunas and a bathhouse with vitality pools, hot tubs, and cold plunge pools. Furthermore, a separate dining room for spa clients serves Korean cuisine.
Step Two – Gaming Expansion
The new gaming area includes:
- 355 slot machines
- 57 table games
- 27 stadium-style games,
- A high-limit gaming area.
- A new food hall seating 150 people, including a private dining area.
- A new 16-seat casino bar
- Plume & Proof cigar lounge with an outdoor smoking patio.
April 18th was the grand opening for its new gaming space, an additional 40,000-square-foot expansion, and food hall. NETimeGambling checked it out the following Saturday.
Our Arrival – Ballys Expansion and Trip Report
We first visited the second floor. This area feels forgotten, but it will be incorporated into the last phase of the expansion. But for now, it feels like the place old slots go to die.
The Shipyard Brewpub, an excellent place for beer, a bite to eat, and the occasional beer dinner, could be expanded and featured. But it is now open for beverages only Sunday – Thursday: 12 PM – 1 AM and Friday – Saturday: 12 PM – 2 AM.
It was time to check out the new expansion gaming area.
Welcome to the New Bally’s Twin River Lincoln
As you enter, that new carpet smell, mixed with cigarette smoke, welcomes you. Its bright Asian theme feels like entering an entirely different casino – much different from the grungy, dumpy ambiance of upstairs and the southern portion of the property.
Almost 400 new slots surround half of the table games; many relocated from the 2nd floor. Yes, there are some new titles, mostly IGT. But the majority seem to be cleaned up “new.” The space does seem tight in some rows, making it hard to get around.
Not big news for Bally’s in Rhode Island, but worth mentioning. There are no video poker machines in the new section – either at the new bar or with the slots. But, of course, it doesn’t matter since the Rhode Island Bally properties have the worst Video Poker offering on the East Coast – even worse than most supermarkets in Las Vegas!
I counted 48 new tables in the central area, so the rest must be in the High Limit Area. But, the non-Asian games are very close and surrounded by the clatter of slots.
I found an interesting quote by our friend Mark Evangelisto after his recent visit after the new area was opened. He said, “As a craps player, I hate the placement of the tables in that space right at the entrance where people not playing the game are milling about while the game is in play. And the noise from the bar band was deafening to the point where you couldn’t hear yourself think, and for a game like craps which requires a lot of player/dealer interaction, the noise level slows the game down… So from a craps player perspective, the game was much more enjoyable in that original area.”
The Asian game area ambiance is much different from the rest of the property. It has many Mini-Baccarat tables, Pai Gow Poker, and Pai Gow Tiles. With the Fortune Bonus, Pai Gow Poker has two tables at a $25 minimum—six seats per table. Pai Gow dealers seem new at the game, so be aware of your ante and bonus wins.
Quartz Hybrid includes four games – 2 baccarat, one blackjack, and one roulette – in the opposite corner of the Asian Food Court. Forty-seven terminals allow you to play one to four of the games simultaneously. I didn’t check to see if this is replacing the stadium gaming on the second floor.
New Asian Food Court
The Emerald Bay Food Hall is the new food court. It offers Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, and Japanese cuisines. The menu is excellent, with kiosks available for easy ordering. Plenty of seating is available to enjoy authentic Asian dishes, desserts, and beverages.
However, we decided against trying it. It’s pricey. Pad Thai is $20, Thom Yum Soup is $25, and General Tso’s w/ Shrimp is $28. So, we turned around and made our way to Subway.
Smoking Is Still a Concern
Ballys Twin River and Tiverton Casinos are the only smoking casinos in New England, despite calls from Twin River employees to get rid of the casino exemption from state laws against smoking in indoor public spaces.
Craig Eaton said the expansion allowed Bally’s to upgrade the casino ventilation system and make the upstairs non-smoking.
However, the non-smoking 2nd floor is a joke now, with little to offer non-smoking gamblers. Most of the best machines have been moved to the newly expanded area, where smoking is allowed due to the “upgraded casino ventilation system.” Let’s hope it works better than the system used at Bally’s Tiverton.
He also referred to casino smoking banned in Massachusetts and Connecticut casinos, allowing it to provide a competitive advantage. However, recent data notes now show that revenue declines following the end of smoking in Delaware, Colorado, Illinois, Deadwood, South Dakota, and New Orleans showed tendencies to recover in subsequent years. Massachusetts and Connecticut casinos have shown the same tendency over the last two years, negating the apparent advantage in Ballys Twin River that still allows smoking.
A side note – While playing Pai Gow Poker, the smoke ventilation system seemed to work quite well. The Asian gaming area was clear of smoke. Let’s hope this innovation continues for all concerned – smokers, non-smokers, and especially employees.
Major Concerns Still Remain
When the expansion broke ground fourteen months ago, Casino Vice President Craig Sculos said the plan was designed to enhance the visitor’s resort experience.
“What Happens in Massachusetts and Connecticut is really beyond our ability to control…this project brings this whole property, Twin River, to a whole new level…”Vice President Craig Sculos
The fact is, Ballys Twin River is constantly being compared to the neighboring casinos in Massachusetts and Connecticut by New England’s players, whether Bally’s officials like it or not. Huge differences separate Twin River Lincoln from the actual resorts in the Northeast. And seemingly small disparities still come up big to players. Here are a few considerations the once-greyhound park needs to address:
The new Spa is a good step in the right direction. This is an A+ move. We hope to see other plans for the second floor mentioned a year ago – a bowling alley, mini-golf course, and expanded dining for the second floor.
The Hotel was also an excellent addition, but it’s rather bland compared to a stay-over at competing casinos.
And no casino can live by Dunkin Donuts alone. Jerry Longo’s Meatballs & Martinis was a needed addition to represent Ocean State’s ethnic background. Fred & Steve’s Steakhouse needs to raise the bar to be included with other casino steakhouses in New England casinos, such as Rare Steakhouse at Encore, David Burke Prime at Foxwoods, The Chandler Steakhouse at MGM Springfield, and Michael Jordan’s Steak House at Mohegan Sun.
Isn’t it odd that a “chowdah” restaurant or specialty seafood dining option doesn’t exist in a Rhode Island Casino? And Rhodey has a “chowdah” named after it! Wouldn’t it be great to live those memories of Rocky Point from years ago with their famous “Shore Dinner!”
Rhode Island law prohibits Twin River from providing complimentary alcoholic beverages to the public. This fits nicely with their war against video poker. The only casino with the same policy in southern New England continues to be Plainridge Park in Plainville, MA.
A Comprehensive and User-Friendly Rewards Club?
Let’s face it; Bally Rewards has a lot of work to do. To be honest, their entire website is one of the worst of the nine New England Casinos. While the new player portal gives you your tier level, tier credits, slot points, and table comps, it lacks any connection to entertainment, dining, or gambling comps. If you lose your mailer, you’re out of luck.
New Chairs and Seats
Single, adjustable slot machine seats. C’mon, you’ve got the money for that, dont’cha? Bally’s TR has the worst seating experience in all of New England. Some new chairs in the expanded area still don’t work well because they aren’t adjustable. For a casino so dependent on its slot players, they need to make the experience more comfortable. Slot cabinets vary in height from company to company. Seats need to be able to move up and down and in front. The seats used throughout that are locked into the slot machine haven’t changed since the first video terminals were introduced in 1992.
A Few More Little Things
Here’s a list:
- More dining options
- Upgrading the rest of the property’s look to match the expansion
- Video poker that’s playable with more game variations. After all, isn’t IGT (the King of Video Poker technology) a partner with Rhode Island’s gambling?
- A better Poker experience. Even New Hampshire’s “The Brook” competes for Ocean State’s Poker players.
Dear Bally’s Twin River, former Lincoln Greyhound Park – you’ve come a long way! This expansion is another positive step in your evolution. But, unfortunately, you do not live in a vacuum. A parochial approach might not sustain the revenue you’ve become accustomed to. Sports betting is a perfect example. You’re not the only game in New England anymore.
For me, there are too many better options in southern New England. You still have a long way to go to earn the adjective “resort.”
P.S. – I’m still investigating your disdain for video poker players