Rhode Island became the eighth state to offer sports betting after the Supreme Court struck down PASPA in May of 2018. Land-based sports wagering became legal on June 22, 2018, when Governor Gina Raimondo signed it into law as part of a $9.6 billion budget plan
Gambling in the state was approved twice by voters, once in 2012 and again in 2016. Those two referendums authorized the construction of two Class III casinos as well as sports betting. Sports betting was formally authorized by state legislators via the state budget process in 2018.
Rhode Island sports betting officially launched on November 26, 2018, in Lincoln, at the Twin River Casino.
The Rhode Island Lottery is charged with the regulation and oversight of the state’s sports betting industry. IGT functions as a partner of the lottery and the casinos, helping to operate sports betting.
Sports betting is limited to the state’s two casinos:
- Twin River Casino in Lincoln
- Twin River Tiverton Casino
Both casinos are owned by Twin River Holdings
Rhode Island is still hoping that sports wagering can result in big numbers for the state, online and mobile wagering would help facilitate that.
President of the Senate, Dominick Ruggerio, talked about revenue in the state of Rhode Island:
“Revenue from sports gaming supports critical state services, like road and bridge repairs, education and human services. This revenue offsets reliance on taxes for state needs. It is estimated that 97 percent of sports betting takes place illegally. This is an opportunity to give Rhode Islanders and visitors a legal avenue to participate in an activity they enjoy while providing a very tangible benefit to our state.”
In order to expand gambling in the state outside of the casinos, Rhode Island would need to offer a referendum to the voters. It seems as if the law in Rhode Island will try to get around that referendum by using this construction:
The server-based gaming system and all hardware, software, and other technology or equipment located on a hosting facility’s premises and used to conduct online sports wagering shall be located in a restricted area on the hosting facility’s premises.
Ruggerio indicated that he was submitting legislation to allow mobile sports wagering through the Twin River properties. Ruggerio stated, “Expanding to mobile gaming would provide a convenient option for those wishing to enjoy this form of entertainment, and open up the economic benefits beyond the walls of Twin River.”
If mobile betting does happen in Rhode Island, it appears to be set up similar to that of Nevada. The bill contains a provision to require in-person registration for a mobile account at a Twin River property. Bettors would then be able to wager anywhere in the state, verified by geofencing technology.
Rhode Island sports betting operates as a state-run monopoly via the lottery. The lottery works with IGT and William Hill to help administer it. The Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation will oversee the operations run by the Rhode Island Lottery Commission and the individual casinos.
The General Assembly Joint Committee on State Lottery met at Twin River on Monday, January 28, 2019. Officials discussed what steps they are taking to shorten betting lines at the casinos, as it has reportedly taken more than an hour to place a wager on a number of occasions.
The solution they said, is to hire and train more bet takers, as well as installing automated kiosks to allow patrons to bet more quickly.
The implementation of online and mobile sports betting would certainly help shorten betting lines at the casinos. Expect advocates of online and mobile betting to address the long lines at the casinos as one of the reasons the state needs to legalize mobile and online betting sometime in the near future.
Rhode Island Sports Betting History
In January 2018, a standalone sports betting bill, S2045, appeared, sponsored by a group of senators. The Bill moved to allow the Rhode Island lottery to operate sports betting at the two Twin River casinos.
Wagering on collegiate sports would be allowed, excluding games involving Rhode Island-based teams.
Governor Gina Raimondo immediately adopted the language into her budget proposal, originally projecting $23.5 million in revenue. Although House lawmakers contested those numbers, they did not contest the line-item inclusion of sports betting.
On May 15, just one day after the SCOTUS ruling, Rhode Island lawmakers held the nation’s first post-PASPA hearing. IGT was the only bidder to become the technology partner to provide sportsbook know-how. With the group already providing the state’s lottery platform, the expansion wasn’t much of a stretch.
The state legislature passed Raimondo’s budget, which included sports betting, in mid-June. Raimondo then signed Rhode Island sports betting into law on June 22, 2018.
Rhode Island Sports Betting Numbers
The tax rate for sports betting in Rhode Island is based on a revenue-sharing model. The state receives 51 percent of the revenue, while the vendors receive 32 percent, and the remaining 17 percent of the revenue goes to the casinos.
- In November of 2018, Rhode Island’s handle for sports betting totaled $682,000. That resulted in $73,000 in revenue, for a hold of 10.5 percent. Sports betting was only operational for five days in the month of November.
According to Paul Grimaldi of the Rhode Island Department of Revenue, sports betting has generated more than $1 million in revenue since it was legalized (as of mid-January 2019). Grimaldi called the state’s $500,000 cut “modest” in light of the projected $12 million for the fiscal year.
The first month of sports betting in Rhode Island has proved to be less than satisfactory compared to budget projections. The state predicted approximately $2 million a month, almost twice of what they have generated thus far.
Grimaldi expects mobile sports betting on the casino properties to be up and running by summer 2019. Something that would certainly help push Rhode Island’s sports betting revenue closer to their original projections.