Seeking to entice new patrons, Bally’s creates new smoke-free section at Lincoln casino
Seeking to entice new patrons, Bally’s creates new smoke-free section at Lincoln casino
Wild Casino

Two days after reporting a significant first quarter loss, Bally’s Corporation on Friday morning announced the opening of a new smoke-free section at its Twin River casino in Lincoln.

The Providence-based casino giant on Wednesday had reported a net loss of $173.9 million during the first quarter of 2024, compared to a $178.3 million profit in the same period a year prior.

During an earnings call, Bally’s President and Director George Papanier placed the bulk of the hit toward “adverse weather” in January that kept potential customers  away. But those conditions, he said, quickly reset in February and March. 

Papanier also cited decreased traffic to Bally’s Lincoln and Tiverton casinos because of “construction on the Providence Bridge on Interstate 195” — a reference to the sudden closure of the westbound Washington Bridge last December when state officials learned the bridge was at risk of collapse.

“One of the two bridges has suffered structural issues leading to lane closures that disrupt traffic during peak periods,” Papanier said. “Unfortunately, there is no immediate solution and the disruptions are expected to continue.”

Bally’s Corporate spokesperson Timothy Louie declined to say how many patrons the state’s two casinos have lost since the bridge’s closure last December.

“We don’t share specifics,” he said in an email Friday.

State leaders are moving forward to hire contractors to tear down and rebuild the westbound Washington Bridge — a process officials aim to have completed by August 2026. Initial estimates put the cost of the bridge replacement project between $250 million and $300 million, although the latest figure has apparently increased to $360 million, according to an estimate from U.S. Sen. Jack Reed’s office. Reed’s office referred to the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) for the new estimate. A RIDOT spokesman could not provide information after acknowledging a request Friday afternoon.

Whatever the cost is, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg reaffirmed federal commitment to the project while testifying before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies on Thursday.

The new nonsmoking section at Bally’s Twin River Lincoln is located near the valet entrance on the first floor. Bally’s announcement notes the area includes 22 table games and approximately 550 slot machines.

“The additional no smoking casino gaming area on the first floor enables guests who prefer a no smoking environment ample space and opportunities to enjoy their favorite games,” Craig Eaton, Bally’s head of Rhode Island operations, said in a statement.

But Leigh Gilbert, an organizer for Table Game Dealers Laborers Local 711, said the union won’t be satisfied until smoking is completely banned in both the Lincoln and Tiverton properties. Gilbert said Bally’s move to add a new nonsmoking area was largely performative and brings little change to working conditions.

“While there are tables in that section, there are no active games I’m aware of,” he said. “There’s nothing going on there but slots.”

Bally’s shareholders will vote on a proposal that could end up clearing the air in all of its properties at the virtual annual shareholder meeting on May 16. Trinity Health, which owns 440 shares of Bally’s stock, is asking the company’s Board of Directors to commission a report on the potential financial benefits of going smoke-free at its properties.

“Everybody else in the world is getting rid of it,” Gilbert said. “I guess all of a sudden table dealers and casino workers aren’t important.”

In its first quarter report, Bally’s  highlighted that it had  “successfully launched iGaming in Rhode Island as sole provider.” As of March 31, the Rhode Island Lottery reported $1.2 million in revenue from online gaming which launched earlier in the month.

Bally’s has approximately 10,000 employees working in 15 casinos across 10 states, a golf course in New York, a horse racetrack in Colorado and online sports betting licenses in 18 states. Casino operations include approximately 15,000 slot machines, 550 table games and 3,900 hotel rooms.

In a regulatory agreement with the state, Bally’s committed to investing $100 million in its Rhode Island properties through June 30, 2043, including an expansion and the addition of new amenities at Bally’s Twin River. A 14,000 square foot Korean-style spa, and a 40,000 square foot casino expansion opened at Twin River in the first half of 2023. Approximately $57.4 million of the committed investment remained as of March 31, according to a regulatory filing.