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Expansion at casino in R.I. is set to open

LINCOLN, R.I. -- Lincoln Park's expansion, scheduled to open Friday, will make it one of the country's largest gambling centers, with thousands of slot machines, new restaurants, and a 2,000-seat arena.

When the $220 million renovation is complete, there will be 4,752 slot machines at the newly named Twin River, more than in all but three casinos in the country -- Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, and Bally's Atlantic City in New Jersey.

State lawmakers will be watching Twin River closely because millions of dollars of state revenue are at stake.

The machines there and at Newport Grand will bring in an estimated $255 million this year. The two facilities pay the state about 60 percent of their revenue from the slots, which is about 7 1/2 percent of the state's revenues.

The construction at Lincoln Park, begun in April, caused a decline in slot machine revenues.

With the renovation nearing completion -- the first floor will be under construction through the fall -- state and track officials hope to see revenues rebound, said Gerald Aubin, who oversees the Rhode Island Lottery. "It's an incredible project that I thought, nine months ago, was impossible," Aubin said. "If it doesn't compete head-to-head with Mohegan and Foxwoods, then shame on us ."

Twin River will still lack some major draws of the big casinos, including a hotel and table games such as blackjack and roulette.

Most patrons come from within 15 miles, but the casino hopes to get people from as far as 60 miles away, general manager Craig Sculos said.