The Casino Bill

The ProJo's Kathy Gregg had the scoop, in today's paper, on Twin River's renewed push for a full-scale casino. Among the most interesting tidbits: the slot plarlor has hired a high-powered lobbying team in George Caruolo, the former House Majority Leader, and Robert Goldberg, the former Senate Minority Leader.

Twin River obviously hopes to fare better than the Narragansett Indians and Harrah's, who were outmanuevered by a savvy opposition when they sought voter approval for a full-scale casino of their own in 2006.

In fact, Twin River - fearful of a competitor - helped bankroll that opposition.

But to succeed, the parlor and its crack political team will have to absorb one of the key lessons of the Harrah's failure - a lesson that can be hard to swallow. I wrote about it a year-and-a-half ago - the "'no' team" I reference being the opposition to the Harrah's proposal:

...the "no" team, which drew on the advice of consultants Dennis and Doug Bailey — brothers known as the "casino killers" for their work in Maine, Massachusetts, and elsewhere — managed to win with a clever strategy that could work again.

Gambling, Dennis Bailey says, is popular. So moral suasion won't work. And the promise of jobs — however illusory — is powerful. "Don't get into an argument about jobs and money," he says, "you can't win that argument."

The trick, Bailey says, is to make the fight about something else. Traffic. Or the terms of the casino proposal. In 2006, opponents labeled the Narragansett-Harrah's plan a "no-bid" deal that involved "rewriting" the state constitution for the benefit of a Las Vegas company.

Of course, gambling proponents could be expected to learn from the last campaign. But don't count on it, Bailey says. "The casino guys tend to get pretty greedy when they write these bills," he says. "They say, 'Well, throw this in, throw that in.' It makes for a target-rich environment."

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