FIELD OF DREAMS A game table at Twin River.
The days of greyhound racing at Lincoln Park ended when a dog named Ajo Big Thunder won the last race ever held on August 8, 2009. The greyhound paddock remains. A few number cards hang onto the crumbling scoreboard that once transfixed the betting crowd. The outline of the track is still visible despite the cover of untamed grass.
The greyhounds are gone, but the racing remains in virtual form. You can purchase a racing program from a vending machine before placing a bet and watching your fortune’s fate on a simulcast monitor displaying races from around the country. The Racebook Room is large but the crowd was sparse on a recent weekday afternoon. A few old-timers keep the flame alive.
It was in this room in 1995 where I won $20 on a greyhound named Moondog Spot. I picked the dog because he was named after a pro wrestler from my childhood. All I knew about gambling came from reading Charles Bukowski, and he wasn’t much help. (“I tried to make my living at the track for a while. It’s painful. It’s exhilarating. Everything is on the line — the rent — everything. But, you tend to be too cautious – it’s not the same.”)
At the time, my winnings wouldn’t cover the rent, but paid for a few pitchers and some peanuts for the guys. I returned last week after Rhode Island voters approved the proposal to expand the former dog track from a 4500-machine slots parlor to a full-scale casino. The facility opened 66 new table games — blackjack, poker, roulette and even 007’s favorite, baccarat — on June 19. Some 600 full and part-time jobs followed (4000 people applied).
By all reports it’s been smooth sailing, save for the July 10 arrest of a Lincoln man. Rhode Island State Police said Steven E. Sabitoni, 46, was charged with one count of larceny of less than $1500 after a Twin River security staff member alerted a gaming enforcement detective that Sabitoni had taken chips from the patron seated next to him at a blackjack table. Surveillance footage reportedly showed Sabitoni taking chips valued at $250. His Twin River days are over. The casino banned him for life
They call it Twin River Casino now, and the name fits. A friendly gentleman took my car at the free valet entrance and a refreshing wave of conditioned air washed over me in the lobby where a map of Rhode Island is etched into the Terrazzo floor.
I walked past a beefy Lincoln police officer in the lobby and three security guards with grey suits and concealed handguns at the casino doors. On the other side I found the new table games and a massive oval bar lined with glass ashtrays. Twin River Casino has smoke-free areas, but this isn’t one of them. The friendly bartender smiled when I pointed this out. “It’s our last bastion of freedom,” he said.
(All workplaces, restaurants, and bars in Rhode Island went smoke-free on March 1, 2005, but smoking is still allowed in separately ventilated gaming areas, such as Twin River and Newport Grand.)