Quonset Point may be the ideal spot for a world-class casino in the eyes of .
A former Naval base, Quonset Business Park boasts 3,207 acres of land. However, only 468 acres are available for development and 166 of that is either preserved, under option or under negotiation. ()
“Quonset is a busy place that is getting crowded, and so that will create some challenges,” said Quonset Development Corporation spokesperson David Preston.
No detailed plans or legislation have been presented on a proposal for a casino in Quonset Point. Preston estimates developers would need about 175 acres of land, based on the size of nearby casinos: Mohegan Sun in Connecticut is about 188 acres, Twin River in Lincoln around 149 acres and Foxwoods in Connecticut has about 145 acres, Preston said.
“Conservatively, you’re looking at 175 acres,” said Preston. “It’s going to be hard to piece together 175 acres in Quonset.”
The largest empty parcel in Quonset is a 62-acre plot in West Davisville between Post Road and the Amtrak railroad with no empty adjacent lots. Though Quonset Business Park has about 30 open parcels, they are spread out across the park from the railroad tracks to the Port of Davisville.
“I can’t see how a casino the size they're talking about would fit in the land they’re talking about here,” said North Kingstown Town Council President Elizabeth Dolan, who also sits on QDC’s Board of Directors. “Quonset is not the right place nor does it have the capacity for a casino of that magnitude.”
State Sen. James Sheehan (D-North Kingstown, Narragansett) also questions how a "large-scale casino" will fit into the growing business park, which now boasts the 8th largest auto importer in the country.
"Quonset is a commerce and industrial park that's been developed efficiently over the years," said Sheehan. "People still think it’s a big open space with tumbleweeds flying around. They just don’t know what’s going on down there.”
Quonset Business Park houses working in more than 164 businesses in the park, including powerhouses like and , which alone employs about 2,000 workers. According to Preston, one in every 50 of those working in Rhode Island works in Quonset Business Park.
“When Massachusetts builds its three casinos — which they will do — we’re going to lose money,” Trillo said in an interview Wednesday night. “It’s not a question of whether you want gambling or don’t want gambling. Gambling is here.”
Though Massachusetts has made steps toward expanding gambling, Sheehan doesn’t believe casinos are the right means to boost the state’s economy.
“I don’t see them as a wealth spring of development, but rather as a black hole,” said Sheehan.
An expansion of gambling in Rhode Island would require a statewide referendum and approval of the host community — in this case North Kingstown.
“My sense is that most residents in North Kingstown, they see this as a bedroom community and are not going to look to fondly at an Atlantic City-style casino in Quonset,” said Sheehan.
For Sheehan, the proposal eerily resembles the battle against turning Quonset Point into a major container port nearly a decade ago. The proposal, opposed by most North Kingstown residents and Gov. Donald Carcieri when he initially ran for election, died in the water in 2002.
Sheehan says he plans to reach out to members of the North Kingstown Town Council and his counterparts in the General Assembly to discuss the potential effects of the proposal.