A Tiverton solicitor advised the town to remain a neutral party in a recently filed lawsuit that challenges the legality of sports betting in Rhode Island, local news outlet NewportRI reports.
Daniel Harrop from Portsmouth filed this past May a lawsuit against the Rhode Island Division of Lotteries and the Rhode Island Department of Administration, arguing that state voters did not approve sports betting in the November 2016 referendum that asked whether a new casino with Las Vegas-style gaming should be located in Tiverton. The facility was to replace the Newport Grand slots parlor.
Mr. Harrop and his legal team claimed that while under state law all forms of gambling expansion should first be approved by voters, residents of the state were not asked whether they approved the legalization of sports betting on the territory of Rhode Island.
Twin River Tiverton, a hotel and casino complex, opened doors in the town of Tiverton last September. The property is owned by Twin River Worldwide Holdings. The company is also the owner of the Twin River Lincoln hotel and casino.
Rhode Island was among the first states that legalized sports betting following last May’s striking down of the federal ban on the practice by the Supreme Court. The two Twin River casinos were authorized by state lawmakers to go live with retail betting. The properties debuted their sportsbooks late last year.
Town Solicitor Says Town Should Remain Neutral
Tiverton Solicitor Giovani Ciccione told town officials earlier this week that they should remain neutral in the ongoing legal dispute. Mr. Ciccione further pointed to the Town Council that while the town was originally not involved in the lawsuit, the presiding judge “decided we were an inseparable party.”
He went on to explain that even though Tiverton was “dragged in,” it does not have to take a position in the legal case.
As mentioned above, the legal team representing the plaintiff in the case argued that the state should have held a referendum on the legalization of sports betting. On the other hand, state lawmakers maintained that the 2016 ballot question included references to “Class 3 gaming”, which includes sports betting, among other gambling products.
Commenting on the positions of the two parties in the legal dispute, Mr. Ciccione said that “there are compelling arguments on both sides.”
The solicitor further dwelt on that the most efficient way of getting the issue behind is by leaving it to be decided by a judge. He went on that if town officials decide to take a position on the lawsuit, they should also determine how much they are willing to spend on defending that position.
Mr. Ciccione warned that Tiverton’s involvement in the lawsuit could be a costly affair. Town Council President Robert Coulter said that the litigation was “fairly novel.”
Lincoln, which hosts Rhode Island’s other commercial casino, has decided not to take legal support of the property’s legal team to avoid conflict of interest.
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