Rhode Island’s House Republican leader, Rep. Blake Filippi, is calling for an independent study to clarify clashing claims made by the two companies vying to run the state’s lucrative gambling business.

“We have learned much over the past few weeks,” Filippi said in a statement, referring to ongoing legislative Statehouse hearings, “but perhaps most important, we have learned what we do not know.”

Since gambling is Rhode Island’s third-largest revenue source, Filippi added, “The complexities of this industry require outside expert assistance. We need to get this right. The future of gaming revenues is far too important to rush through when there is such conflicting testimony from the Administration, IGT and Twin River.”

Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo supports a no-bid $1 billion 20-year contract extension for IGT Global Solutions to run the Rhode Island Lottery and provide up to 85 percent of the video slot machines at Twin River’s casinos in Lincoln and Tiverton.

Raimondo has warned that IGT could take 1,000 jobs out of Rhode Island even if the company was ultimately selected through an open bidding process.

“I want Rhode Island to understand that,” she told reporters after testifying during a recent hearing in the House Finance Committee. “The CEO came to meet with me in my office, from Italy. He was not threatening. He was not bluffing. They have real estate all over the country, they’re trying to consolidate. The jobs are very much at risk and I think we’d be crazy to lose them.”

But Filippi points to a series of “disputed areas,” including this question he raised during a House Finance hearing:

“Does the proposed IGT contract include a premium on services as a subsidy to keep 1100 jobs in Rhode Island? The Administration and IGT claim there is no premium on services in the proposed IGT contract, while Twin River pegs the premium at approximately $300 million over the life of the proposed the contract. Similarly, we must also determine whether Twin River’s competing proposal offers market-driven rates, or whether it includes a premium on services for creating jobs.”

Filippi also questions, among other things, how IGT’s video slots compare with their competitors in Lincoln and Tiverton, whether IGT should be able to supply up to 85 percent of those VLTs, and whether 20 years is an appropriate length for a technology contract.

In a news release, House Republicans say former Hasbro CEO Alan Hassenfeld has offered to finance an independent analysis of the proposed extension for IGT.

“With Hassenfeld's offer to finance this much needed analysis, we have nothing to lose and much insight to gain from his examination on behalf of Rhode Island taxpayers,” said Rep. Robert Quattrocchi (R-Scituate). “We need to confirm that our gaming contracts maximize value for taxpayers. This study would give us all, legislators and citizens alike, a better handle on the best course of action.”

The governor’s spokesman, Josh Block, said there has already been what he calls more than adequate study of the issue.

“There have been two independent analyses of the IGT proposal – one by an economics professor at Bryant University [who testified in the House] and another by a national economic consultant [Appleseed] – in addition to thorough research and consultation with the National Association of State and Provincial Lotteries (NASPL),” Block said. “Every study has confirmed the same result – that this is a strong proposal that is competitive with other states and would be enormously beneficial to Rhode Island’s economy.” 

Legislative hearings on the proposed IGT extension are slated to continue later this month.

 (Disclosure: The Public’s Radio gets some financial support from IGT.)