Sci-Games join Twin River’s bid for Rhode Island gaming contract


scientific-games-twin-river-rhode-island-lottery-bidGaming technology firm Scientific Games Corporation (SGC) has joined the race to run Rhode Island’s state lottery while casino operator Twin River says state officials are vengeful liars.

On Tuesday, Twin River Worldwide Holdings (TRWH) announced that SGC was joining the consortium pushing for a public tender of the 20-year contract to run the Rhode Island Lottery’s operations. The consortium also includes UK National Lottery operator Camelot and Greek lottery tech outfit Intralot.

The lottery contract is currently held by International Game Technology (IGT) and runs until 2023. Earlier this year, Gov. Gina Raimondo controversially proposed extending IGT’s deal by another 20 years without seeking other bidders, leading to a probe by the state’s Ethics Commission and threats of legal action by TWRH, which runs gaming operations at two state-owned casinos.

The Rhode Island Lottery oversees virtually all gaming in the state, and IGT’s contract covered not only lottery products and services but also allowed the company to install 85% of the slot machines on the gaming floors of the state’s two Twin River-branded casinos. The Lottery also has responsibility for the state’s new mobile sports betting product, which launched last month.

TWRH exec VP Marc Crisafulli said SGC’s decision to join the consortium was “further proof that there is significant interest in bidding for Rhode Island’s lottery and gaming business.” Crisafulli cast shade on IGT by noting that Rhode Island’s lottery growth lagged almost all US states and the SGC slots in Twin River casinos “outperformed IGT-controlled machines by over 50% last year.”

On Monday, TWRH announced that it had reached a settlement with the state that will see the company pay a $180k penalty for violating the terms of its business license. In addition, TWRH must now spend $12m per year for the next three years to upgrade its casino in Lincoln, up from the previous commitment of $5m per year in upgrades.

TWRH’s license required it to keep its debt-to-revenue ratio at 4:1 but the company pushed this to 4.5:1 this spring in order to reward investors with dividends and share repurchases. TWRH said it received assurances from state officials that the license language could be reworked but the state reneged on this deal after TWRH publicly challenged the plan to extend IGT’s sweetheart contract.

A settlement letter obtained by the Providence Journal quotes TWRH CEO George Papinier saying “a senior member of the administration warned a member of my staff that there would be consequences if we opposed” the IGT extension.

There’s clearly no love lost between the two parties, as Gov. Raimondo issued a statement saying that TWRH’s “repeated disregard for the regulations that govern their business license raises serious red flags about the company’s leadership.”

Raimondo’s proposed IGT contract extension is currently the subject of a series of hearings in the state’s House of Representatives, the latest of which was scheduled for Tuesday night, with another get-together on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the state’s digital sports betting product appears to be suffering from the requirement for customers to complete the registration process in-person at a Twin River casino.

Rhode Island Lottery director Gerald Aubin said Monday that over 12k customers had signed up via the app since its September 4 launch but so far only about 45% of these had followed through with the in-person registration.

The betting app has reportedly handled nearly $18m worth of football wagers over the first six weeks of the current NFL season, with around $2m of that being held as revenue.