Rhode Island might be tiny, but the state has made a name for itself over the years when it comes to its laws and regulations. As one of the last states to ratify the constitution of the United States, it continues to stand its ground when it comes to gambling laws.
The Ocean State was one of the first to legalize pari-mutuel betting on horse racing. This was way back in the early 1930s. And by the way, one of the longest standing legal traditions in the state is that residents are given the mandate to vote and determine whether new laws should be passed or not. As such, it was through voting that pari-mutuel wagering was legalized around 1934.
Narragansett Park and Lincoln Downs were the first racetracks to be constructed in light of the new pari-mutuel betting laws, but they later closed down in the 1970s. Right after that, horse racing and greyhound racing seemed to have died down with the racetrack’s closure.
Towards the end of the 20th Century, very little was done to expand sports betting and accommodate other forms of sports betting, leading to the drastic decline of the horse racing industry. The final nail in the coffin was hammered when the PASPA was enacted, prohibiting any form of sports betting in states that hadn’t already regulated the activity.
2000 – 2016
In 2010, a law was enacted to prohibit live horse racing and greyhound racing, leaving casino gambling as the only legal form of betting in the state.
Tables were however turned in 2016 to rekindle the hope for sports betting after Peter Kilmartin, the then Attorney General, legalized daily fantasy sports under state regulations. Of course, this was after a thorough investigation of state statutes, case law and other operations that deemed daily fantasy sports as games of skill instead of games of chance. This is a trend seen in many states over the last few years. Per the new law, regulations were to be put in place and Deborah Ruggiero, a State Representative, introduced legislation to regulate daily sports betting in March of that year (2016). This remains one of the first forms of online gaming allowed by the state.
2018 to Date
Later in 2018, it was a great move forward for the Ocean State and several other states in the United States when the Supreme Court repealed the PASPA in May 2018 after years of being challenged by state representatives. For Rhode Island, this meant that they could finally legalize sports betting. And sure enough, the state legalized sports betting through the state 2018/19 budget making it the eighth state to legalize sports betting.