Is sports betting legal in Rhode Island?

Yes. Both online and retail sports betting are legal in Rhode Island. You can place bets at two retail locations or through a mobile device or computer.

Sportsbook apps in Rhode Island

The only sportsbook app available in Rhode Island at the moment is Sportsbook Rhode Island, a product of the Rhode Island Lottery and the lottery’s collaborations with IGT and William Hill. IGT provides the platform for the sportsbook app, while William Hill provides the power behind the app’s operations.

The app itself is generic, inoffensive and perfunctory. All the pieces are in the usual places, with the list of sports in the left column, live betting options in the center and the bet slip on the right. For being the only app available in the state, it is lacking in flash, but it serves the state well with the basics of betting.

In terms of the potential for more sportsbook apps to launch in Rhode Island, the chances are quite low. Rhode Island law prescribes a much closer relationship between the state and sports betting than is common. For all intents and purposes, sports betting is a government service in the state, and the app is an arm of the Rhode Island Lottery.
The only possible change might be a rebrand, as Caesars has mostly dissolved the William Hill brand and may look to continue this process in Rhode Island. However, there is no indication that the sportsbook app in Rhode Island is planning an identity shift anytime soon.

Retail sportsbooks in Rhode Island

As is the case with online sports betting, there are few choices for retail sportsbooks in Rhode Island. There are only two locations in the state, and there’s no indication that any expansions are imminent. Here are the two venues for betting on sports in person:

CasinoPartnerOpening Date
Bally’s TivertonIGT/William HillNov. 26, 2018
Bally’s Twin River LincolnIGT/William HillDec. 3, 2018

Rhode Island sports betting laws

Rhode Island was one of the first states to offer legal sports betting after the repeal of PASPA. Gov. Gina Raimondo signed off on the enabling legislation in June 2018, only one month removed from the Supreme Court’s decision.

Raimondo’s signature on S2045 paved the way for retail sports betting at Rhode Island’s two casinos. The first legal bet in state history took place in November 2018.

The rules supporting S2045 are also significant because of the tax and revenue structure that they enacted. Rhode Island divides the proceeds from sports betting as follows:

S2045 also banned wagering on in-state college teams, regardless of the location of their games. 

Rhode Island lawmakers realized shortly after the debut of sports betting in Lincoln and Tiverton that the state was missing out on the revenue potential of online sports betting. Lawmakers then moved quickly to allow online betting in 2019 with the passage of SB37. The new law did not open the industry for a competitive bidding process. Instead, the state regulator, the Rhode Island Lottery, chose to produce its own online sportsbook in collaboration with what was then William Hill. 

SB37 also contained a provision requiring you to register for the state’s online sportsbook at one of Rhode Island’s two casinos. Although this requirement is less onerous in Rhode Island due to the state’s small size, it nevertheless created an unnecessary hurdle.

Thus, lawmakers changed the law for the third time in as many years with the passages of SB2919/HB8097. With those two bills becoming law, people could sign up for Sportsbook Rhode Island from anywhere in the state.

Comparing Rhode Island to Connecticut and New Hampshire

Rhode Island is far from the only state in the Northeast to allow sports betting. The activity is legal in New York, New Jersey and (soon) Massachusetts. However, Rhode Island’s size and population make a comparison with those states a bit difficult. Instead, let’s look at how Rhode Island sports betting compares to two states that are a bit more similar — Connecticut and New Hampshire.

Rhode IslandConnecticutNew Hampshire
Retail sports betting?YesYesYes
Number of legal locations21710
Online sports bettingYesYesYes
Active online sportsbooks131
College wagering restrictionsNo betting on in-state schoolsCan bet on in-state college teams only if they are playing in a tournamentNo betting on in-state schools
Tax rate51%13.75%50%/51%

In terms of similarities, sports betting in Rhode Island shares more in common with New Hampshire sports betting than almost any other state. Both states tax sportsbook revenues at around 50%, while the Connecticut tax rate is at 13.75%.

In general, sports betting in Connecticut is much more similar to states with competitive markets, like New Jersey or Virginia. For that matter, Connecticut’s market is more competitive, with FanDuel, DraftKings and PlaySugarHouse vying for customers.

New Hampshire and Rhode Island also share the blanket prohibition on wagering on in-state college teams, regardless of the situation. Connecticut has a similar prohibition, but not in cases like March Madness or other tournaments.

There are two main differences between sports betting in New Hampshire and betting in Rhode Island. The first is the rationale behind the number of online sportsbooks in the state. Rhode Island has yet to allow the possibility of any other online book setting up shop. New Hampshire has an exclusive deal with DraftKings, but it retains the possibility of allowing additional online books if it agrees to lower DraftKings’ tax rate. 

The other difference relates to retail sports betting locations. Although the rollout in New Hampshire has been slow, the New Hampshire Lottery allows for as many as 10 retail locations throughout the state and has already indicated that it plans to begin operating under the name Sports 603. Rhode Island, on the other hand, restricts in-person betting to the two Bally’s casinos inside state lines.

Popular sports to bet on in Rhode Island

Rhode Island is not home to any major professional sports teams. There are four colleges whose teams play in the NCAA’s Division I, but Rhode Island law doesn’t permit wagering on any of those teams. As far as pro sports, many Rhode Islanders will root for Massachusetts teams, but there might be some crossover for the teams in New York from time to time — particularly for people in the western portion of the state.

Rhode Islanders certainly have a well-documented affinity for hockey, usually siding with the Boston team as their representative. However, there may be some who root for the Carolina Hurricanes, oddly enough. Until 1997, the Hurricanes played as the Hartford Whalers in nearby Connecticut.

Other legal gambling in Rhode Island

Sports betting is not the only type of wagering that takes place in Rhode Island. There are multiple gambling venues and several online gambling activities available in the state. Here is a brief rundown of the options.

Casinos

The most visible and obvious options for legal gambling in Rhode Island are the state’s two casinos. Bally’s operates both locations, offering slots, table games and sports betting. The property in Lincoln is the larger of the two, but both locations offer roughly the same experience. 

Horse betting

There are no live horse racing tracks in Rhode Island at this time.

There are also no off-track betting locations in the state. Although Rhode Island has legal provisions to allow for off-track wagering, no OTB parlors operate in the state right now.

The only options for Rhode Islanders are online betting sites, with several choices available, including TVG and FanDuel Racing

Daily fantasy sports

Daily fantasy sports became legal in Rhode Island due to an opinion from the state attorney general. Then-AG Peter Kilmartin stated the following:

“Applying the ‘dominant factor’ standard, I do not believe that daily fantasy sports constitute a ‘game of chance’ and therefore, daily fantasy sports do not constitute a lottery under Rhode Island law.”

The “dominant factor” that he mentions is his determination about the balance between skill and chance. A game predominantly based on chance would count as a lottery and would, thus, be illegal. Kilmartin did not believe DFS met this standard, which gave the green light to companies like DraftKings and FanDuel to offer services in the state. 

While there is still no enabling law for DFS in Rhode Island, people in the state can play the contests without any worry or concern.

Lottery

The Rhode Island Lottery, aka “the Lot,” has been operating since 1974. This makes it one of the oldest gambling options in the state, and it serves as the state’s de facto gambling commission, as well. 

As is the case with most lotteries, it offers scratchers and draw games, iLottery, and popular multistate jackpot draws like Mega Millions and Powerball

Finally, the two casinos in the state are home to several video lottery terminals.

Rhode Island sports betting timeline

2019

Realizing the amount of RI sports betting revenue the state was leaving unrealized by not offer mobile sports wagering, a group of Senators introduced S 37.

The bill passed the Senate in February and the House in March. Gov. Gina Raimondo signed the bill into law by the end of the month.

2018

A standalone sports betting bill (S 2045) appeared in January, sponsored by a handful of senators.

The bill moved to allow the RI Lottery to operate sports betting at the two Twin River casinos. Wagering on collegiate sports would be allowed, excluding those involving Rhode Island teams or games.

Raimondo immediately adopted the language into her budget proposal, projecting $23.5 million in revenue from the activity. House lawmakers later contested those numbers but not the line-item inclusion of sports betting.

On May 15 — the day after the SCOTUS ruling — Rhode Island lawmakers held the nation’s first post-PASPA hearing. During the chat, it became clear that the small state was quite serious about sports betting. Lottery staff showed an active request for proposal, soliciting a technology partner to provide the sportsbook know-how.

IGT was the only bidder, seemingly earning the gig by default. The group already provided the state’s lottery platform.

The state legislature passed Raimondo’s budget including sports betting in mid-June. Raimondo signed Rhode Island sports betting into law on June 22.

Rhode Island sports betting FAQ

Which agency oversees Rhode Island sports betting?

The Rhode Island Lottery. The Lot acts as the gambling commission in the state. It oversees sports betting, the state’s casinos and any other gambling that takes place in Rhode Island.

Where can I bet on sports in Rhode Island?

Because betting on sports is available online, you can technically bet on sports from anywhere in the state. However, if you want to bet in person, you can place a wager at either Bally’s Twin River Lincoln or Bally’s Tiverton.

Can I bet on sports online in Rhode Island?

Yes. Online sports betting is available through Sportsbook Rhode Island, a product of the Rhode Island Lottery. There are no other legal online sportsbooks available in the state. 

Who can bet on sports in Rhode Island?

Anyone within Rhode Island’s borders and over the age of 18 is eligible to bet on sports in the state. Be prepared to verify your location inside the state.

Who can offer sports betting in Rhode Island?

Only the Rhode Island Lottery and the state’s two casino locations can offer sports betting.

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