Rhode Island was one of the first US states to legalize sports betting following the invalidation of the 1992 PAPSA Rule by the Supreme Court in May last year.
Efforts to bring regulated sportsbooks to the Ocean State began with the introduction of a legal wagering bill in the Senate House on January 18, 2018. The bill, SB 2045, was sponsored by a group of senators led by Sen. Ruggerio.
The legislation sought to allow the Rhode Island Lottery to operate physical sportsbooks at the state’s two casinos – the Twin River casinos in Lincoln and Tiverton. The bill authorized betting on both professional and collegiate sports, except in competitions where RI-based college teams were participating.
The services would be available to residents of the state who are 18 years or older.
The bill received massive support from the state’s lawmakers, including the Governor, who was quick to include sport betting language in her budget proposal. The legislation passed soon after the annulment of the federal ban on sports betting in May, and Gov. Gina Raimondo signed it into law on June 22.
Regulated Wagering Begins
Little Rhody launched its legal sports betting industry on November 26, 2018. The official first bet was placed at Twin River Casino in Lincoln City. The book took in $682,714 in wagers during the first five days of operation and won $72,997.
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Its sister property, Twin River Tiverton, opened its sportsbook to the public on December 3.
The two venues booked $13.1 million worth of wagers during the first full month of operation, and the total sports betting revenue for the month jumped to $957,913.
Both sportsbooks run on IGT’s PlayDigital platform, with William Hill providing the odds.
Under the state’s law, 51% of the sports betting revenue goes to the government, 32% to the vendors (IGT and William Hill), and 17% to the casinos.
Introducing RI Mobile Sports Betting
The first sports betting law in the state provided for in-person wagering at the two Twin River Worldwide Holdings-owned venues only.
In March 2019, RI legislators passed a sports betting expansion bill that authorized statewide online betting.
The state’s sports betting law, however, requires a bettor to visit either of the Twin River casinos to activate their accounts before they can place an online wager. This is because the Lottery must confirm that the customer is at least 18 years old.
Mobile operations started on September 5 at Twin River Lincoln, with its Tiverton-based sister casino joining the market a few days later.
According to the RI Lottery, more than 12,000 people have downloaded the sportsbetrhodeisland.com app since its launch.
Rhode Island Sports Betting So Far
The State Lottery reports that the market has grown steadily since November last year.
By the end of August 2019, the two Ocean State sportsbooks had processed more than $145.9 million worth of sports bets and won $8.5 million. The total revenue collected by the state was $4.4 million, but the numbers are below the figures projected by the RI government.
The Governor’s office had estimated that sports betting would bring in $22.7 million in revenue for the fiscal year 2020. By October 19, the Twin River Sportsbooks had made $3.1 million, which is 50% less than the $6.9 million forecast for the first quarter of the financial year.
The onset of mobile betting, however, is expected to be the game-changer in the sector, and the government is optimistic that the revenue figures will continue to increase as the market grows.
The only challenge that the industry is facing is the issue of in-person registration, which seems to stop a majority of the state’s residents from participating in online betting. The Lottery reports that only 45% of the 12,000 customers who downloaded the RI online wagering app have visited the physical casinos for activation.