Online Rhode Island Sports Betting? Senate President Introduces New Bill

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Rhode Island sports betting

Rhode Island could have online sports betting apps as soon as this year if one of the top lawmakers in the state gets his way.

President of the Senate Dominick Ruggerio indicated he was submitting legislation today to allow mobile sports wagering through the Twin River properties. You can see the bill here.

Ruggiero said in a press release:

“The new, in-person sportsbook that opened in November has been very popular, with lines stretching out the doors. It is an entertainment option that many Rhode Islanders enjoy, and visitors from outside the state are also flocking to our gaming facilities to place their wagers on sporting events.

“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. I can envision a group of friends from out-of-state spending an evening out in a local establishment where they can both watch the game and place a wager.”

The state already has land-based sportsbooks.

What RI mobile sports betting might look like

In short, it might look quite a bit like Nevada sports betting.

The bill contains a provision requiring initial, in-person registration for a mobile account at a Twin River property. Bettors then would be able to wager from anywhere in the state, as verified by geofencing technology.

The in-person requirement is less than ideal. Last year, New Jersey showed that mobile sign-up works with little problem. Nevada is considering moving toward remote registration as well, at the request of MGM Resorts and Caesars.

There is also the possibility of multiple vendors for Rhode Island sports betting apps, although it’s not clear if Rhode Island would drift from the system it has now, where IGT and William Hill work together to provide land-based sports betting.

Multiple vendors?

The director of the lottery has the power to “enter into contracts for the provision of server-based gaming systems, facilities and related technology necessary and/or desirable for the state-operated online sports wagering.” The plural “contracts” leaves the possibility of more vendors, even if it doesn’t manifest.

Much of the actual machinations of how to regulate online betting is left in the hands of the state lottery.

Is RI trying to get around a state referendum?

To expand gambling in the state outside of the casinos, Rhode Island technically would need to offer a referendum to the voters. But it appears the law will attempt to get around that 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.

Today, in RI sports betting

Last year, Rhode Island sports betting went live with the two Twin River sportsbooks at the casinos in Lincoln and Tiverton. Traffic has been anecdotally brisk at both, sometimes resulting in long lines and displeased bettors.

The first four-and-a-half days of Rhode Island sports betting produced more than $682,000 in handle placed. That led to a hold for Twin River of nearly $73,000. That’s roughly 10.7 percent.

Still, the state is hoping for big numbers from sports wagering, and online betting would help facilitate that.

Ruggiero continued about revenue in the release:

“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.”

The state controls RI sports betting

Rhode Island sports betting operates as a state-run monopoly via the lottery, which works with IGT and William Hill to administer it. The revenue breaks down as follows: