Mobile RI Sports Betting Starts Today, But Will It Have To Stop?

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RI sports betting

Today brings the end of a long wait for mobile RI sports betting, as the state’s site and app appear active.

What’s uncertain, though, is whether a lawsuit to prevent Rhode Island from going mobile might stop it. The suit first came to light shortly after legislators passed a bill adding mobile to RI sports betting this year.

Two Providence Journal reporters first indicated that Rhode Island sports betting could modernize Wednesday:

The website and app can be seen here.

It’s not that simple in RI sports betting

The lawsuit filed by former Providence Republican mayoral candidate Daniel Harrop argues mobile RI sports betting requires voter approval. That contention relies on a narrow interpretation of the state constitution, which requires all forms of gambling expansion to go to the ballot.

Recent court filings indicate Twin River, which operates the state’s two sportsbooks, joined the Rhode Island Lottery in questioning whether Harrop has standing:

“Can an individual who has waited over (a) year since legislation commencing sports wagering passed, asserts no particularized injury-in-fact (as distinguished from every other Rhode Island voter), and does not reside in either town where sports wagering is hosted have standing to challenge what he describes as constitutional claims on behalf of all Rhode Island voters. This question must be answered in the negative.”

The suit does not appear to faze the lottery, which oversees Rhode Island sports betting, or vendors IGT and William Hill. A Wednesday launch would give New England its first mobile sports betting app a day before the kickoff of NFL football.

And not a moment too soon …

Rhode Island became the first state to first pass a sports betting law and later approve mobile after seeing middling returns from a retail-only model. State legislators passed a sports betting law in summer 2018, but Twin River and the lottery did not launch until well into football season.

With just $7.7 million in sports betting revenue to date after that November 2018 start, Rhode Island will need a few strong months to meet revised first-year projections of $11.5 million.

That forecast halved initial estimates of $23 million that Gov. Gina Raimondo built into her budget last year. Foregoing mobile appears the primary culprit for the shortfall, especially considering the proximity of sports-hungry but betting-poor Boston.

How RI sports betting revenue breaks down

IGT won the state contract to power Twin River sports betting, extending an arrangement in which the company backs the RI Lottery.

William Hill supports the day-to-day operation of RI sports betting in Lincoln and Tiverton. Revenue distribution cuts as follows: