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Twin River closes purchase of Miss. casino as chairman pushes gambling in Colo. [The Providence Journal, R.I. :: ]
[July 11, 2014]

Twin River closes purchase of Miss. casino as chairman pushes gambling in Colo. [The Providence Journal, R.I. :: ]

(Providence Journal (RI) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) July 11--LINCOLN -- Twin River Casino said Thursday it has completed its purchase of a casino in Mississippi, but the company's chairman was not celebrating in the Magnolia State.

Instead, John E. Taylor Jr. was in Denver finishing a reconnaissance mission on a ballot initiative to expand gambling in Colorado.

"I'm spending a fair amount of my time looking at the situation," Taylor said. The proposed Colorado ballot initiative and the Mississippi casino purchase are both part of Twin River's efforts to bolster its Lincoln casino against a coming onslaught of competition from Massachusetts, where efforts are under way to expand gambling.

"Growing the business...solidifies our position in Rhode Island at an important time," Taylor said by phone from a Colorado airport.

The company owns the Arapahoe Park horse racetrack near Denver and 11 off-track-betting parlors in Colorado.

That state allows limited casino-style gambling in three historic mining towns.

Twin River is promoting a ballot initiative that would allow slot machines and table games at Arapahoe Park, with 34 percent of the revenue going into an education fund to supplement -- not replace -- existing school spending.

Taylor estimates that, if approved, casino gambling at Arapahoe would pump $100 million annually into an education fund that could go toward technology, teacher training, school security or other programs.

"It's very early, [but] I think there's receptiveness when you're talking about expansion at an existing enclave," Taylor said.

The company also would make "a couple-of-hundred-million-dollar investment" to add a casino to Arapahoe Park, where it will hold 38 race days this summer.

That's why, even on a day he considers "a very, very important day in the history of Twin River," Taylor was not in Mississippi popping champagne to celebrate the closing of the company's purchase of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Biloxi.

"Our long-term vision all along was to strengthen Twin River as a business so that we might create greater value for our various stakeholders and at the same time mitigate competitive threats, particularly with respect to Massachusetts casinos," Taylor said in a statement noting the milestone.

Rhode Island, which relies on gambling proceeds from Twin River and Newport Grand as its third-largest source of revenue, could see that revenue drop by $100 million if Massachusetts gambling plans come to fruition.

Twin River Casino and Newport Grand both will be hurt by the expansion of gambling in Massachusetts. The first hit is expected by June 2015, when the Plainridge Racecourse formally transforms into Plainridge Park Casino -- adding slots to its harness racing.

To soften the blow to its bottom line, Twin River Management Group Inc. announced in December 2013 that it had struck a deal to buy the Hard Rock in Biloxi for $250 million.

The casino will maintain its Hard Rock affiliation and has received a license for use of the brand name as part of the transaction.

Twin River plans no noticeable changes to the Biloxi operation, Taylor said. Instead, it will strengthen marketing efforts to draw in more business and take advantage of the property's new 150-room hotel tower.

___ (c)2014 The Providence Journal (Providence, R.I.) Visit The Providence Journal (Providence, R.I.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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