|By Scott Mayerowitz, The Providence Journal, R.I.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Sep. 22--Casino giant Harrah's Entertainment threatened yesterday to sue Governor Carcieri over comments he made at an anti-gambling convention last week.
Carcieri told those attending the conference in Warwick that Harrah's had approached a local law firm with the promise of handling the business of 200 home foreclosures a year in exchange for supporting Harrah's casino bid.
He made the remark to illustrate his point that "casinos create wastelands around them."
The governor told the story twice: once during a news conference prior to the start of the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling's annual gathering Friday, and then again at the convention's first session.
Asked afterward to name the law firm that had been approached by Harrah's and the source of his information, the governor refused.
Asked for comment on Carcieri's assertion, Jan L. Jones, Harrah's senior vice president for communications and government relations, said yesterday: "I think it's unconscionable for a governor of a state to make a statement that is not only categorically false but a downright lie, and then do it in a manner that he's not going to divulge who allegedly said this."
Jones said Harrah's is ready to sue Carcieri for slander.
"Prove it, retract it or expect papers to be filed," she said yesterday.
Jones, a former Las Vegas mayor who twice ran unsuccessfully for governor of Nevada, said it's "outrageous, irresponsible and quite frankly unbelievable that a man of that stature would say something so patently untrue... He should be ashamed of himself."
Carcieri defended his comments yesterday.
"It is a well-known fact that casino gambling causes personal bankruptcies and foreclosures," said Carcieri spokesman Jeff Neal. "The governor stands by his statement."
Added Neal: "The governor of the State of Rhode Island does not respond to threats from out-of-state casino lobbyists."
In response, Jones said: "So he feels that as an elected official he can say anything and not be held accountable to the truth."
When asked why Carcieri would not disclose more information, Neal said: "He received that information in a private conversation."
Carcieri decided to share the private tip publicly, Neal said, because "he felt the information was critical to understanding what casinos do to people."
Carcieri opposed Harrah's plans for a Rhode Island casino throughout this year's legislative session. In July, Carcieri vetoed legislation that would have asked voters in November if they wanted a West Warwick casino operated by Harrah's in partnership with the Narragansett Indian tribe.
The General Assembly overrode the veto, but Carcieri struck back, asking the state Supreme Court for an advisory opinion on the legality of the ballot question.
Last month the court sided with the governor, advising that the proposed casino violated a 1973 constitutional provision that prohibits all "lotteries" except those that are state-operated.
Jones yesterday said that Carcieri has now taken his casino fight one step too far.
"Enough is enough," she said. "It is one thing to not support gambling... but to say something so patently untrue is not acceptable."
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