Rhode Island poised to be early adopter for sports betting in US
Legal Sports Report

IGT High On Sports Betting In Earnings Call, Likely To Provide It For Rhode Island Lottery

IGT sports betting

Things are happening quickly for both international gaming company IGT and Rhode Island when it comes to sports gambling.

For the state, it seems to have found a roadmap to sports betting, both legally and logistically.

To the first point, lawmakers are operating under the assumption that RI sports betting is already legal. The US Supreme Court removed the federal roadblock last week, and state officials say voters have approved sports betting twice — as part of Class III casino referendums in 2012 and 2016.

A pending sports betting bill moves to explain that in black and white.

On the logistical side, the bill would allow the two Twin River casinos to offer sports betting through a partnership with the RI Lottery. There’s an appetite for expansion into mobile and retail channels in the future, too.

The lotto needs a tech partner to provide the infrastructure for sports betting, though. It’s never done this before. Last week, we reported on its request for proposals, seeking an operator that could put a solution in place by October. According to lottery spokesman Paul Grimaldi, 18 companies participated in a pre-bid conference in April.

Last Friday marked the deadline for submission, so the lottery now knows how many proposals it has to sift through.

There’s just one.

IGT bids… wins?

This week, the Providence Journal reported the results of the RFP. The only operator to submit a bid is the one already serving the RI Lottery. It’s IGT, which currently provides the land-based and digital platforms in the state.

It looks like that partnership is about to grow. Although IGT had the inside track on the gig, it’s somewhat surprising to see its proposal go unchallenged. Grimaldi said the lottery “would have preferred more bidders” and would not speculate on the reasons there was just one. (Hints: only a million residents, likely lopsided revenue share).

Daily fantasy sports operator DraftKings was among those present for the pre-bid conference.

The lottery’s Technical Review Committee will now assess the proposal, and it would likely only reject it for significant flaws. Given IGT’s track record, it would be surprising if anything comes up.

The details are still sealed, though.

You and RI already know IGT

International Game Technology is UK-based gaming provider that maintains offices in Providence. You may already know the name as one of the leading suppliers of slot machines and other gaming terminals.

Land-based casino operations still represent a substantial chunk of its business, but IGT is now everywhere in this modern, mobile age. The company is one of a very few that can provide end-to-end solutions across all gambling verticals.

IGT has strong ties to the lottery, too, with partnerships in about 100 jurisdictions across six continents.

That includes Rhode Island, where IGT has been providing the lotto technology since 2003. The two parties have refreshed the partnership a couple times, including the addition of a “player convenience” app in 2015. IGT reported about $53 million in revenue from its RI operations last year.

It knows its way around the sports betting circuit, too. In addition to operations in Italy, IGT serves up Nevada sports betting under a partnership with MGM Resorts International. That partnership is also poised to spread into more states as legislation permits.

IGT high on sports betting

In case you’re not getting the sense, IGT is a good name to watch in US sports betting going forward. Rhode Island is only the beginning of its post-PASPA plan.

Sports wagering came up several times in this week’s earnings call. Here’s CEO Marco Sala:

The US Supreme Court’s recent PASPA ruling presents an exciting opportunity for us. We have turnkey solutions for platforms, credit control, risk management support, and advisory services that we have successfully deployed in Italy and internationally over the years. Our offering can support full-scale operation or a smaller format retail kiosk.

Today, in the US, we provide a regulator-certified sports betting solution that is up and running at MGM’s casinos in Nevada. This solution is comprised of both land-based retail sports betting platform and the PlaySpot, our mobile solution. Ultimately, the opportunity will depend on how many states choose to allow it, how quickly they do so, and how the regulations will shape the offer. Having said that, we have a longstanding deep relationship with the US casino operators and state lotteries, and have been actively engaged with them and government authorities to support shaping a safe and sustainable offer.

The RI situation even came up. Here’s head of investor relations Jim Hurley:

The only additional comment I can make is that last Friday IGT submitted its proposal to the Rhode Island’s State Lottery to provide comprehensive sports betting operation. The proposal contemplates both land base and digital wagering, and reportedly IGT was the sole bidder of the process. So we feel we are well-positioned.

Eric Ramsey
- Eric is a reporter and writer covering regulated US gambling, sports betting, and DFS. He comes from a poker background, formerly on staff at PokerNews and the World Poker Tour.

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