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Legal Sports Report

Mobile RI Sports Betting Restrained By In-Person Registration Requirement

RI sports betting

It appears in-person registration for mobile accounts is hurting Rhode Island sports betting handle and revenue.

More than 12,000 users have downloaded the Rhode Island sports betting app since its launch in September. But just 45% have completed the registration by visiting either Twin River or Tiverton so they can place a bet, according to Lottery Director Gerald Aubin.

That conversion rate was “not unexpected” given the in-person activation, which is required by the state’s constitution, Department of Revenue spokesman Paul Grimaldi said.

About 500 to 600 people complete the RI sports betting registration process each week, or less than 5% of the total downloads. That would mean the New England Patriots-crazed state still wouldn’t finish signing up all of the pending accounts by the end of the NFL regular season 10 weeks away if that pace continues.

RI sports betting revenue so far

The lack of a full-fledged mobile product is evident in the figures reported Monday by Aubin at a legislative oversight hearing.

Bettors wagered just $17.9 million through Week 6 of the NFL season with more than $2 million in revenue on an 11.4% hold. And that’s with a New England home team that is undefeated and has been favored to win every single week, according to The Lines. About 49% of handle derives from NFL-related wagers.

Bettors tend to complete registration as a game approaches or a particular sport’s season starts that piques their interest, Grimaldi said. Rhode Island residents might not be the only ones needing to make a trip to the casino, as neighboring Massachusetts does not offer legal sports betting.

Weekly handle rose 75% compared to last December, the first month both casinos offered sports betting.

RI sports betting missing new estimates

Rhode Island sports betting is more than 50% behind its estimated revenue to the state through the first 111 days, Aubin said.

Revenue is $3.098 million compared to the $6.884 million it should have to keep pace for the state’s $22.7 million total for fiscal 2020. The state forecasted $17.2 million in revenue from mobile and $5.5 million from the land-based books.

Aggressive sports betting revenue projections from Gov. Gina Raimondo missed as well and had to be cut in half. Rhode Island legislators quickly corrected course from their 2018 passage of retail sports betting by adding mobile in the 2019 session.

What is in-person mobile registration?

Most states allow potential sports bettors to download their sportsbook app of choice and begin betting after remotely verifying identity and clearing required checks.

Others, like Rhode Island, Nevada and Iowa (until 2021,) require that potential bettor to register at a land-based casino or sportsbook before a bet can be placed.

There are very few in the industry that support in-person registration. Illinois, for example, heard from multiple industry representatives that were against in-person mobile registration.

One damning quote from MGM Resorts:

“If this requirement remains in place, it will severely reduce participation in online sports wagering by individuals, further discourage established operators from entering the Illinois market, and undermine the State’s efforts to launch and generate revenue from online and mobile sports wagering.”

Rhode Island casino breakdown

Rhode Island’s gaming operations work a little differently than most other states. Twin River owns both of Rhode Island’s casinos, though the games offered are technically lottery games.

IGT and William Hill both play a role in powering the Rhode Island sportsbook app. IGT provides the technology while William Hill manages the risk.

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- Matthew Waters is a reporter covering legal sports betting and the gambling industry. Previous stops include Fantini Research and various freelance jobs covering professional and amateur sports in Delaware and the Philadelphia area.
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