Rhode Island Sports Betting Guide
Also known as the Ocean State, Rhode Island stands as the smallest state in the United States. Its small size allows it to provide betting services to most of its residents as the two authorized land-based casinos are accessible from almost anywhere in the state. The gambling laws in Rhode Island are relatively progressive because, after all, it’s one of the few states that recently allowed sports betting within its boundaries.
While a lot of progress has been made in sports betting to date, there’s still a lot of room for expansion and learnings from the successful online sports betting in the state of New Jersey, especially for interactive and mobile sports betting. Here’s a comprehensive scoop of the current situation of sports betting in the Ocean State.
Brief History of Sports betting in Rhode Island
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.
Legalization of Retail and Interactive Sports Betting in Rhode Island
Even before the PASPA was overturned, a request for proposals from sportsbook operators interested in an initial exclusive license was issued by the State Lottery in April 2018. The operators awarded would be allowed to offer sports betting services in the state’s Twin River Casino.
In May 2018, IGT was later awarded a contract that was to last up to five years as the sole operator with an exclusive license for sports betting offered at the two main casinos in the state; Twin River and Tiverton Casinos. This proposal was approved by the House of Representatives and the Senate in June of 2018, following the repeal of PASPA. As expected, the Twin River Casino launched its sportsbook on 26th November in 2018. This was in partnership with IGT and William Hill. Following this, the sportsbook offered at Tiverton, by Twin River Casino, opened in December of the same year.
Online Sports Betting
Rhode Island has been one of the few states that managed to legalize online and mobile sports betting in the United States. In March 2019, the Senate, through its president, Dominick Ruggerio, tabled Bill S0037 in a bid to authorize online and mobile sports betting in the state. However, the bill stumbled into lawsuits from Republicans Brandon Bell and Joseph Larisa. In these lawsuits, plaintiffs highlighted the fact that the legalization of any form of online sports betting should be a matter of public vote, which is under the State Constitution of Rhode Island.
This led to setbacks in the legalizations of online sports betting in the state but did not hinder the bill from being passed into law at the end of it all. By September 2019, both online and mobile sports betting services were available in the two casinos in the Ocean State. The requirement for online and mobile sports betting, however, is that players must be physically present in the land-based casinos and they must be over 21 years old.
Daily Fantasy Sports in Rhode Island
As a step forward in the gambling laws of Rhode Island, Daily Fantasy Sports betting was legalized in February of 2016, making it one of the first states to legalize daily fantasy sports betting in the United States. The legislation introduced in March of 2018 established regulations that included consumer protection measures.
These regulations also proposed initial licensing fees of up to $50,000 for the first year and $20k every year onward. Based on Rhode Island General Laws, this legislation was passed on to the House Finance Committee for consideration. Some of the most reliable sites offering daily fantasy games for Rhode Island locals include DraftKings and FanDuel, which are both legal in the state.
Sports Betting Highlights in Rhode Island
|Regulatory Body||Rhode Island Department of Public Safety|
State Police Charitable Gaming Unit
|Key Legislation||Rhode Island General Laws|
State Law on Gambling and Lotteries
|Taxation||Sports Betting: 51%|
|Online Sports Betting||Allowed, only within licensed casino premises|
|Mobile Sports Betting||Allowed, only within licensed casino premises|
The Future of Sports Betting in Rhode Island
Compared to states like Nevada, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, Rhode Island is doing a great job especially when you look at the strides the state has made for interactive sports betting. The local sports betting industry is projected to grow exponentially especially if you look at the numbers that have been trickling in a few months after the legalization.
That said, residents can remain optimistic even though some say that the restriction of having to be physically present to place mobile wagers curtails the experience. If the state chooses to follow the trends that other progressive states continue to set, the future is bright for sports enthusiasts!