Twin River asks to serve drinks until 2 a.m.

Twin River asks to serve drinks until 2 a.m.

LINCOLN - Twin River Casino officials, who went before the Town Council in a special meeting on Nov. 26, have proposed expanding the casino's liquor license during a six-month pilot program with the town.

If drafted and adopted, the resolution would extend liquor service from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights and nights before legal holidays, something that has been done without incident for five years when an extension has been granted for New Year's Eve and the night before Thanksgiving.

Town Solicitor Anthony DeSisto said the state allows communities, by ordinance, to extend closing to 2 a.m. He suggested the Town Council draft language to add a six-month sunset clause and restrict the extension to holders of a gaming license, if they choose to move forward.

Twin River officials, who included Vice President and General Manager Craig Sculos and Director of Public & Community Affairs Kim Ward, said this extension for the three bars on the gaming floor would help the casino be more competitive.

There is also a safety aspect, they said, as other municipalities have 2 a.m. closing times and Twin River patrons, they said, will leave the casino to make last call elsewhere before driving back to the casino.

Sculos said that he does not expect the reverse to happen, that people leaving bars in Providence would drive to Lincoln for last call. People out in Providence will stay there, he said.

"It's for patrons who are already there," Sculos said. "It's keeping them on the property as opposed to drawing them back in."

Sculos said what Twin River has learned as it made the transition from a race track to a 24-hour casino is that the lack of a closing time allows for "a much better flow," with patrons leaving at varying times instead of all at once.

Led by Director of Security Steve Lefebvre, the casino has a plan that includes more than 1,000 cameras, complete with facial recognition technology, and more than 100 certified servers to control who can purchase alcohol.

There is an automatic shut-off with bars, Ward said, so that if a patron is cut off from service, he or she cannot go elsewhere to get a drink. She said the casino also pays for cabs for those who cannot drive home, and patrons are able to stay at the 24-hour establishment as long as they need "to sober up."

The 24-hour Dunkin' Donuts and Subway restaurant are always available, Ward said, and Twin River has provided food to patrons in the past.

In addition to safety concerns, Ward said the casino is "hoping to get ahead of" the development of Massachusetts casinos, which have reportedly hit roadblocks in the approval process in some suburban communities.

Town Administrator T. Joseph Almond told The Breeze that while delays in Massachusetts are "good news" for Rhode Island and Lincoln, they will be built eventually.

"It looks like it's going to take longer," he said. "It's good news revenue-wise for us. We don't have to absorb as soon."

Either way, Almond said he does not think the neighboring state wants to open new casinos too close to Rhode Island, either, to protect its own interests. And if some Massachusetts communities vote down casinos, he said, "the map will change" and they can open elsewhere "kind of like musical chairs."

Twin River's Chairman of the Board John Taylor Jr., who was not at the meeting, told The Breeze that the casino has made a "conscious decision to focus only on those things we could control."

Table games, "a laser focus on customer service," and a continued partnership with communities in Rhode Island are part of that plan.

Opening table games, which started out 66-strong and have since increased by 14, has also added more than 600 jobs to Twin River, Taylor said, and supported the companion video lottery terminal play - which was up by 3 percent in the first quarter, Almond said.

According to revenue reports from Rhode Island Lottery, table games have brought in $3.18 million to the state's general fund since the start of the 2014 fiscal year in July.

A "pleasant surprise," has been the increase of food and beverage sales, Taylor said, which have increased 20 percent to 25 percent since the acquisition of table games.

"It's all about developing relationships with players," he said, so that when casinos inevitably open in Massachusetts, patrons will remain loyal to Lincoln.