Rhode Island Targets November For Sports Betting
Legal Sports Report

Rhode Island Sports Betting Will Launch Later Than Expected

Rhode Island Sports Betting

It appears Rhode Island sports betting will get a later start than previously expected.

According to a press release, the state signed a five-year contract Friday with IGT and William Hill to run its sports betting operation.

“It’s an exciting time for the Rhode Island Lottery,” said Gerald Aubin, Rhode Island Lottery Director, in the release. “With the introduction of legalized sports betting, we will leverage world-class resources and technology from IGT and William Hill to provide the best-possible sports betting experience for the patrons who visit our casinos.”

IGT, the lone bidder for the contract, will be the state’s official sports betting partner. Rhode Island’s lottery will oversee sports betting, which will take places at its two casinos.

Twin River Casino in Lincoln and in Tiverton will offer legal sports betting at its sportsbooks. The contract also includes a provision for on-site mobile wagering, similar to the setup in Mississippi sports betting. Bettors there must be on casino grounds to wager with a smartphone app.

Moving back the start date

Rhode Island sports betting won approval from the state legislature in June. Twin River spokesperson Patti Doyle told Legal Sports Report at that time that the casinos planned to launch sports betting in October.

“We’re working toward an October date for the offering of a sports betting amenity,” Doyle wrote in an email. “We’ve begun the planning process for the space – which will be set in a sports-themed environment and a highly interactive one at that. We’ve also contemplated staff requirements.”

Considering the sides only agreed to the contract in late August, a November launch sounds plausible. The new Tiverton casino does not even open until Sept. 1.

Moving from October to November likely will put a major dent in potential revenue for Rhode Island sports betting, though. The casinos will miss weeks of NFL and college football with a later launch.

How Rhode Island sports betting revenue will split

The state will be the greatest benefactor in Rhode Island sports betting. Here is the breakdown of revenue sharing for Rhode Island:

  • State: 51 percent
  • IGT: 32 percent
  • Casino: 17 percent

Whether that setup qualifies as revenue sharing or as a functionally heavy tax is a reasonable question. Delaware sports betting functions under a similar system to Rhode Island’s planned structure.

Governor Gina Raimondo planned for $23.5 million in annual sports betting revenue in the state’s budget. Doing the math, that works out to about $900 million in handle.

By comparison, Nevada sports betting took in $5 billion in handle last year as the only state offering single-game wagering. That makes $900 million sound like a heavy lift for a state as small as Rhode Island.

Rhode Island will add to a Northeast region teeming with legal sports betting options. New Jersey sports betting already launched and Pennsylvania’s first sportsbook plans to be live by fall. Connecticut recently scrapped legislative plans to get started in 2018, but likely will join New York in starting next year.

Adam Candee
- Adam Candee covers sports business and news from Las Vegas. Adam is a former editor and reporter at the Las Vegas Sun, Arizona Daily Sun and KLAS-TV.