The state of Rhode Island 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, indicated he will be submitting legislation to allow mobile sports wagering through the Twin River properties. Ruggiero said in a press release:
“The new, in-person sportsbook that opened in November has been very popular, with lines stretching out the doors. It is an entertainment option that many Rhode Islanders enjoy, and visitors from outside the state are also flocking to our gaming facilities to place their wagers on sporting events. Expanding to mobile gaming would provide a convenient option for those wishing to enjoy this form of entertainment, and open up the economic benefits beyond the walls of Twin River. I can envision a group of friends from out-of-state spending an evening out in a local establishment where they can both watch the game and place a wager.”
Rhode Island already has two land-based sportsbooks. Twin River Casino (Lincoln) and Twin River Tiverton Casino are both operated as a state-run monopoly via their lottery, which works with IGT and William Hill to administer it. 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 and, hopefully for Rhode Island sports gamblers, sometime soon.
As with many aspects of the newly legal sports gambling industry in the new states such as Rhode Island, Nevada sports betting is serving as an example. While Rhode Island’s Lottery operates and oversees their sports betting industry, the online app would function just as the ones in Nevada do. Just as in Nevada, the Rhode Island bill contains a provision requiring initial, in-person registration to open a mobile account at one of the Twin River properties. Online sports bettors then would be able to wager from anywhere within the state which will be verified by the app’s geofencing technology.
Although this system works and is important for the legality of the product, other states have found that the in-person requirement is actually less than ideal. For instance, last year New Jersey showed that mobile sign-up works with little problem. Mobile sign-up seems to be the wave of the future as Nevada is considering moving toward remote registration as well, at the request of MGM Resorts and Caesars. Rhode Island, all jokes aside, is a small state and is not working on the same level as others, especially Nevada, so the in-person requirement will probably be here to stay.
There is also the possibility of several vendors for the Rhode Island sports betting apps and websites. However, it’s not clear if Rhode Island would drift from the system it has now, where IGT and William Hill work together to provide land-based sports betting.
The bill to be submitted will give the director of the lottery the power to “enter into contracts for the provision of server-based gaming systems, facilities and related technology necessary and/or desirable for the state-operated online sports wagering.” The plural “contracts” leaves the possibility of more vendors, which is another tactic learned from Nevada. Options are key. Rhode Island wants to hold the monopoly approach it has, and much of the actual machinations of how to regulate online betting is left in the hands of the state lottery.
Legality is Legality
As part of the conditions of legalizing sports betting in the Rhode Island, in order to expand gambling in the state outside of the casinos, the state technically would need to offer a referendum to its voters. However, it appears the law will attempt to get around that because of this sentence in the original law. “The server-based gaming system and all hardware, software, and other technology or equipment located on a hosting facility’s premises and used to conduct online sports wagering shall be located in a restricted area on the hosting facility’s premises.” As you can see, the wording is everything.
As of Today in Rhode Island
Last year, Rhode Island sports betting went live with the two Twin River sportsbooks at the casinos in Lincoln and Tiverton. In under a week, Rhode Island sports betting produced more than $682,000 in handle placed. That led to a hold for Twin River of nearly $73,000. That’s roughly 10.7 percent. While this is only two sportsbooks, it is still lower than they expected. That said, there were many rumblings from disgruntled sports bettors about long lines. Slow start aside, Rhode Island is hoping for bigger numbers from sports wagering and an online betting option, even with in-person registration, would only help that.