Despite approving mobile RI sports betting this legislative session, the state does not plan to launch its app for months.
A source close to the process tells Legal Sports Report that the goal for Rhode Island sports betting is a fourth-quarter start to mobile wagering. The later end of that timeline would endanger the start of football season in New England Patriots country.
Rhode Island started its brick-and-mortar sports betting operations at Twin River Lincoln and Twin River Tiverton in late November. Revenue fell short of projections after launch without the ability to bet via smartphone or online.
In fact, the state cut its annual revenue forecast from $23 million to $11.5 million after seeing early returns. That also happened in part because the state pushed back from its original October launch plan. Handle rose to its highest level yet in March, though, at $23.6 million.
Enter mobile Rhode Island sports betting
State legislators moved quickly in the 2019 session to include mobile RI sports betting among options for bettors. S 37 adds the ability to wager remotely through the lottery-run sports betting operation.
Gov. Gina Raimondo, who jump-started Rhode Island’s push toward legal sports betting last year, signed the bill into law last month. In the Providence Journal, Raimondo downplayed the missed revenue forecasts because of the lack of mobile at the start:
“I think in the long run, the numbers are going to be what we thought, but we got a slower start, Maybe we should have known it was was going to be slower and forecasted accordingly. I also think the world is changing and actually the money is going to be on the [mobile] phone.”
Partnerships with established companies William Hill and IGT fueled speculation of a speedy mobile launch.
The information given to LSR, however, makes that appear unlikely. Football season starts in September, at the end of the third quarter. With the Boston market showing a strong appetite for Rhode Island sports betting, the state could again struggle to meet revenue goals without mobile.
The backstory on RI sports betting
IGT was the sole bidder to partner with the state on Twin River sports betting. While 18 companies expressed interest, only IGT bid. IGT began working with the RI lottery 15 years ago, likely helping spur its interest.
William Hill backs the day-to-day sportsbook operation for Twin River Lincoln and Tiverton. The lottery controls Rhode Island sports betting revenue distribution, and it breaks down like this:
- State: 51 percent
- IGT: 32 percent
- Casino: 17 percent
Twin River wants mobile sports betting
Tiverton Casino Hotel opened in September to serve southern Rhode Island, as well as southeastern Massachusetts. The Lincoln property is a shorter drive for Boston-area residents.
Twin River welcomes the addition of mobile RI sports betting, according to comments last month from spokesperson Patti Doyle:
We’re grateful that our customers will have the opportunity to enjoy our sports betting amenity in a new and convenient way.
In addition to wagering in the Sportsbook Bar & Grill at Twin River in Lincoln, at other terminals throughout the casino floors at both Rhode Island venues, and most recently, at self service kiosks, our customers can opt to do so from the convenience of a mobile app.
We look forward to working with the State, the Division of Lotteries and our other partners in this new product roll-out.