Proposed Review of Casino Amendment Rejected

The Rhode Island Supreme Court has made a decision not to review a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the Narragansett Indian tribe to build a casino in West Warwick.

The review was requested by Governor Don Carcieri and Attorney General Patrick Lynch. The two casino opponents have asked the court to issue an advisory opinion on the amendment before it could make it to the November ballot.

The amendment seeks to exempt the tribe and its partners from a constitutional provision that requires the state to run all lotteries including casinos. The tribe is a longtime partner of casino giant Harrah's Entertainment.

Chief Justice Frank Williams and three other justices said in an order that the court would no longer issue an advisory opinion for the reason that Carcieri and Lynch do not hold the authority to ask for one. The process of constitutional amendment does not involve the executive branch of the government.

"They're saying the governor has no duty to act on a constitutional amendment," court spokesman Craig Berke said. "An amendment is between the General Assembly and the people. Not the governor. Not the attorney general."

The court also said that its opinions on the casino issue in the past dealt with alterations in state law and not constitutional amendments.

"I'm very pleased that the Supreme Court recognized the fact that the governor and the attorney general did not have standing to bring this issue before this court," said Rep. Timothy Williamson, D-West Warwick, who sponsored legislation authorizing the casino amendment.

"We learned our lesson and put forward a constitutional amendment this year," Williamson said. "It looks like the people of Rhode Island will get to decide the issue."