Flimsy Rhode Island Sports Betting Challenge Thrown Out But Appeal Is Coming

Posted on June 2, 2020

Rhode Island Superior Court ruled sports betting in the state is constitutional and denied an injunction to stop it.

The ruling settled a lawsuit filed last May by Dan Harrop, who felt RI sports betting should stop because it was not specifically approved in a referendum that expanded Rhode Island gaming laws.

The court disagreed, saying voters had fair notice that voting for the expansion would approve all casino gaming. Not every detail needs to be explained by the referenda questions, which means RI sports betting didn’t have to be explicitly mentioned, the court added.

Paul Grimaldi, the Rhode Island Lottery spokesperson, said:

“We appreciate the time and attention dedicated to this issue by the Superior Court. The ruling issued today reinforces what previous legal opinions have affirmed, that sports betting is both allowable under the law and that voters approved of its start in Rhode Island and its subsequent availability online.

“Sports betting has proven popular among the state’s residents since its inception here in November 2018, with the revenue generated from it supporting investments in education, health care, infrastructure and more.”

Rhode Island sports betting lawsuit appeal in works

Harrop wasn’t surprised the Superior Court ruled with the state and is planning for the next stage. Appeals from Superior Court go straight to the state’s Supreme Court.

Harrop suggested personal aspirations at the Superior Court level may have played into the ruling.

“Yes, already in the works,” Harrop said when asked about an appeal. “We always expected this would [go] to the Supreme Court in Rhode Island. It’s a tough pull for a Superior Court judge (who might like to be a Supreme Court Judge at some point) to find errors in the actions of the Governor (who nominates Supreme Court judges) and the General [Assembly] (that confirms such).  The Supremes do not have that personal issue.”

Rhode Island sports betting lawsuit background

The lawsuit was actually dead in the water as of September.

The Superior Court granted Rhode Island’s motion to dismiss, saying Harrop isn’t actually harmed by sports betting.

But Harrop then produced proof of a bet he made, and lost, against the New England Patriots. That was sufficient enough to prove Harrop had indeed been harmed by sports betting.

Sports betting handle disappears in April

The Rhode Island sports betting market could be one of the hardest-hit in the US by the coronavirus pandemic.

Handle fell to just $591,377 in April, down 93.4% from March, according to the state report. Sports betting revenue was $27,381, 96.7% off of March.

The shutdowns from the pandemic had a double-whammy effect on the state’s betting market. First, all major sports shut down, leaving few wagering options for bettors.

Rhode Island also requires in-person registration to create a mobile betting account. That means anyone who didn’t have a sports betting account before Twin River‘s two casinos closed March 14 couldn’t open one even if they wanted to bet on limited options.

Twin River’s two casinos remain closed but reopen Monday.

Fiscal 2020 projections missed

There’s now no doubt the state will miss its lofty revenue forecast of about $22 million from sports betting in fiscal 2020.

Overall revenue might not even reach that amount. Total revenue for fiscal 2020 sits at $18.4 million follow April’s dismal results. Rhode Island gets 51% of that revenue, meaning it’s currently in line for $9.4 million.

The fiscal year ends June 30.

Matthew Waters Avatar
Written by
Matthew Waters

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.

View all posts by Matthew Waters
Privacy Policy