Rhode Island became the eighth state to offer regulated and legal sports betting in 2018 after the Supreme Court ruled the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, or PASPA, unconstitutional early in the year. Much like New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Rhode Island was able to see the writing on the wall.
Sports betting was at an all-time high and the issue of legalized sports betting was picking up steam in every state house around the country. Rhode Island’s lawmakers acted accordingly in order to take advantage of the new trends and laws as quickly as possible.
Rhode Island sports betting began November 26, 2018 at its Twin River Casino in Lincoln. Governor Gina Raimondo allocated revenue from sports betting into her budget proposal, so the state is counting on seeing some tax revenue. Rhode Island joined Delaware, New Jersey, West Virginia, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and New Mexico in starting a sports betting operation at some point in 2018.
Not only was Rhode Island one of the first to act on the new law of the land, they were one of several states acting as instigators and forcing the issue in the federal court system as well as their own state courts.
Rhode Island sign sports betting into law on June 22, 2018.
Rhode Island wisely left the issue up to the voters using very direct ballot measures, and the voters always responded positively to the idea of regulated and legalized sports betting. The state’s voters twice approved casino gambling in the state, once in 2012 and again in 2016. Those two referendums authorized the construction of two Class III casinos with sports betting accommodations.
Rhode Island state legislators formally authorized sports betting via the state budget process in 2018. As you can see, most of the heavy lifting was done in preparation for a Supreme Court ruling that was years away.
On May 15 of 2018, the day after the Supreme Court ruling came down and essentially legalized sports betting, Rhode Island lawmakers quickly held the nation’s first post-PASPA hearing. During that meeting, it became very clear that the small state in New England was quite serious about capitalizing on sports betting and the revenue it produces.
Lottery staff showed an active request for proposal and solicited a technology partner to provide the sportsbook know-how. Turns out, their partner IGT was the only bidder, seemingly earning the gig by default barring an issue in review. The group already provides the state’s lottery platform, so the expansion wasn’t really much of a surprise.
The state legislature passed Raimondo’s budget, including sports betting, in mid-June. Raimondo then signed Rhode Island sports betting into law officially on June 22, 2018. Then, another standalone Rhode Island sports betting bill (S 2045) appeared in January and was sponsored by a handful of state senators. This bill moved to allow the Rhode Island Lottery to operate sports betting at the two Twin River casinos. Wagering on collegiate sports would be allowed, as the only exclusion would be those involving Rhode Island teams or games.
Governor Gina Raimondo immediately adopted the language into her budget proposal and it was projected that an extra $23.5 million in revenue would be produced from this activity. House lawmakers later contested those numbers, but not the line-item inclusion of sports betting.
Rhode Island made more then $682,000 in wagers within the first four-and-a-half days of sports betting being legal.
Thus far, New Englanders apparently really like the idea of Rhode Island sports betting. The first four days of wagering provided plenty of data in a short amount of time.
When the state lottery released the first-ever monthly Rhode Island sports betting revenue report for November, the filing—which covered only the first four-and-a-half days of the new industry—showed more than $682,000 in wagers placed. Those bets led to a hold for Twin River of nearly $73,000, which is a hold of around 10.7% and not bad at all for 4.5 days at market.
Furthermore, these numbers include only the Twin River property in Lincoln, which launched first. The sister casino in Tiverton also features sports betting. However, it didn’t open its operation until early December and, therefore, was not on the November report. The Tiverton casino and sportsbook sits within an hour’s drive of Boston and could capture many sports bettors from that untapped market, not to mention those just over the border in Massachusetts.
Brick and Mortar
Rhode Island has only two land-based sportsbooks, and they are both attached to casinos. Twin River Casino (Lincoln) and Twin River Tiverton Casino are both operated as a state-run monopoly via Rhode Island’s lottery system, which works with IGT and William Hill to administer their products.
The lack of licenses and means to apply for one seems to indicate these may be the only sportsbooks we will see in the state for some time. Their revenue breaks down rather simply with the State receiving 51%, IGT receiving 32%, and the casino raking in 17%.
While the state holds off on expanding their brick and mortar operations, an online product is only a matter of time. When online betting comes to Rhode Island, these two casinos will remain an integral part of the process as in-person registration will be one of the requirements to use their online products.
There is currently no online sports betting, but legislation is on its way to allow mobile sports wagering apps.
As mentioned above, while there are no online options as of yet, the state could have online sports betting apps and websites coming their way as soon as this year if one of the top lawmakers in the state has his way.
The President of the Senate, Dominick Ruggerio, has submitted legislation to allow mobile sports wagering through both of the Twin River properties, so Rhode Island should have online options available in 2019.
Even though Rhode Island sports betting is completely legal, offshore sportsbooks are still illegal.
Sports betting in the state, just as every type of legal gambling, is highly regulated by their Lottery. Some offshore sportsbooks and gambling sites are cleverly disguised to look like the real thing and even advertise themselves as being legal, but it’s just marketing.
As mentioned, online gambling is not available as of yet in Rhode Island, so any site saying as much is not to be trusted.