A senior executive with Twin River Management Group urged the Rhode Island House Finance Committee to use open bidding to settle the state’s next major gambling contract, arguing that it would result in a better deal for taxpayers.

Twin River also revealed that it has an agreement with the Greek company Intralot to provide gaming system technology and retail equipment if the state pursues an open bidding process.

IGT Global Solutions countered by citing IGT’s economic impact in Rhode Island – to the tune of more than $25 million in tax revenue a year – and by citing how the company has more than twice as many state contracts as its closest competitor.

“Our technology, it’s military-grade,” said IGT Chairman Robert Vincent. “It’s the best in the industry. You can see that from the contracts we win and the amount of activities we supply. When someone says 75 percent of the lottery revenues in the United States flow through our systems, it’s meaningful. It means something. The industry has spoken.”

IGT has its North American headquarters in Providence, in a building created after the state gave the firm, then known as GTECH, a 20-year deal in 2003. GTECH was later bought by an Italian company.

Marc Crisafulli, executive vice president for Twin River, prefaced his remarks by saying that competition is intrinsically a better thing for Rhode Island taxpayers. He pointed to what he called a key difference from when GTECH got the lucrative 20-year no-bid state contact in 2003.

“You have a second competitor sitting at the table wanting to bid,” Crisafulli told the Finance Committee, as part of a hearing that stretched into the night after starting at 3:43 p.m. “And it’s just very hard for me to understand why when you have two large well-funded companies, both with substantial presences in the state, how the executive branch would simply select one without a formal process and have to actually pass legislation to accomplish it. We just think we deserve a chance.”

The testimony was the first from IGT and Twin River as part of an ongoing hearing process. This was the second of two House Finance hearings, but more may be scheduled before year’s end.

Gov. Gina Raimondo and her administration are solidly behind awarding a no-bid 20-year contract worth $1 billion to IGT. Raimondo has said that opening bidding for the contract would put Rhode Island at risk of losing 1,000 IGT jobs in the state.

But it’s unclear how legislators, who would have to approve the contact extension, will come down on the proposal.

“Speaker [Nicholas] Mattiello said this issue will be decided on the merits after consultation with the House Finance Committee and the rest of his House colleagues, as well as receiving input from the public,” House spokesman Larry Berman said in a statement. “The House has not made any determination on the legislation and it will be now be given thoughtful consideration.” 

The governor’s spokesman, Josh Block, panned Twin River’s newly revealed relationship with Intralot as “another 11th hour tactic meant to distract from the full public vetting of this strong proposal. This time, Twin River seems to be suggesting we should fire a homegrown Rhode Island company with 1,000 local employees in favor of some undefined amalgamation of two international companies — companies that couldn’t even be bothered to show up at the hearing.”

The Raimondo administration has also downplayed Twin River’s vow to offer a $100 million guarantee that it will locate 1,000 jobs in the state.

But Crisafulli got support for his argument for opening the bidding from Rhode Island GOP National Committeeman Steve Frias, who has twice run for state rep against House Speaker Mattiello.

“Not only is the IGT no-bid deal not justified from an economic development perspective, it is dangerous from a state fiscal perspective,” Frias said in his prepared testimony. “The IGT no-bid deal will give IGT control of 85 percent of the video-slot machines at Rhode Island casinos for twenty years. These slot machines produce over $300 million annually in state revenues. IGT’s video slot machines have recently failed to meet performance standards under its current contract with the Rhode Island Lottery, which is why IGT’s percentage of slot machines has been reduced to about 77 percent. In Rhode Island, IGT’s video slot machines may be netting less revenues than the machines of its competitors in Rhode Island.”

Led by Vincent, IGT batted lead off in the hearing in House Finance.

At one point, Anthony Lucas, a University of Nevada professor testifying on behalf of IGT, threw shade at Twin River by saying its casinos in Lincoln and Tiverton would attract more gamblers if they were cleaner. He also described something already clear in Rhode Island – how gambling, the state’s third-largest revenue source – faces sharper competition, in part from the Encore casino north of Boston.

IGT officials said it’s difficult to compare the cost of the company’s services in different states, since the services vary by state.

“There’s been a lot of talk about a premium that we get for this economic development agreement,” Vincent said, referring to how House GOP Leader Blake Filippi asked last week what IGT would be getting out of guaranteeing the presence of more than 1,000 jobs in Rhode Island. “Entering into a 20-year contract is good for us. Being able to assure investors that our revenues are secure for the long term -- that’s important.”

Vincent said avoiding disruption is also important: “Why undertake the effort of relocating a highly functional team if there’s a reasonable path forward here in our state.”

But Crisafulli charged that IGT’s proposed extension is padded with extra profits, to the tune of about $300 million. He urged lawmakers to support an open bidding process.

“Allowing people to bid separately, the state then retains absolute discretion to take a look at it and decide what’s in the best interest,” he said.

As part of a competition between IGT and Twin River/Camelot Lottery Systems, he predicted that state would attract at least three bidders on the lottery side, three to four for the video slot central system, and six to eight for the video slot machines. “The problem for IGT with that kind of a process,” Crisafulli said, “is it would allow everyone in that state to see down to the penny what the state is paying for the jobs.”