RI sports betting has been a hot topic for first half of 2018
Legal Sports Report

Rhode Island Sports Betting Language Poised To Be Part Of State Budget

RI sports betting

Rhode Island lawmakers are considering sports betting in the context of the state’s budget package.

The proposal from Gov. Gina Raimondo, submitted back in January, includes revenue allocated from the industry. The bill in front of the House Finance Committee, at some point added actual language to regulate sports wagering.

According to the Providence Journal, sports betting is among the moving pieces when it comes to the state budget. The committee will hold a hearing today at 7:30 p.m. regarding H 7200 — which currently includes sports betting — and expects to vote (and pass it) thereafter.

What’s going on in RI?

It sounds like lawmakers have several reservations about Raimondo’s budget proposal:

  • House wants $250 million bond for school construction
  • Critics want the Office of Health and Human Services dismantled due to a string of controveries
  • Uncertainty about proposed expansion of the medical marijuana industry
  • E-911 fees are padding the state’s General Fund at cost to those in need of services
  • Desire to avoid proposed Medicaid cuts and co-pay increases

There’s also sports betting. House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello said Raimondo’s estimate of $23 million from sports wagering is “not ultimately what is going to pass.” That’s the extent of the context the tight-lipped speaker provided.

Mattiello did indicate the group is close to finalizing its proposal, and there are no major sticking points left. “It’s a very good budget in my opinion,” he said. “It’s going to serve the state very well.”

Should the authoring committee advance its proposal, it would head to the House floor for discussion. July 1 is the deadline to pass a spending package, but lawmakers are hoping to adjourn by June 22.

RI sports betting so far

There’s still no RI sports betting law in place, but some in the government contend that voters already approved the activity via two separate casino referendums.

A standalone bill (S 2045) reflects this position in detail. It lays out the case for existing approval, then moves to allow the two Twin River casinos to add sports gambling.

Language from that bill has since been rolled into the state budget package. She’s set aside $23.5 million in sports betting revenue this year, which would be an ambitious number considering RI sports betting doesn’t exist yet. Even if passed today, there would be some lead time before the first tickets are printed.

Maybe not much lead time, though. The RI Lottery is already reviewing a proposal from IGT to provide the technology. If approved, IGT has turn-key solutions that could allow for a quick launch.

All that’s lacking is an enabling law, and a change to the budget could provide a small stumbling block. The standalone sports betting bill remains on file in the Senate.

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