Rhode Island will soon have state-sanctioned online casino games just a few short months after the idea was informally introduced.
For some background, RI is the smallest state in the US with a land mass of less than 50 miles by 50 miles in any direction. It was the 13th colony and the first to declare independence in 1776.
It’s also home to the operational offices of IGT and the headquarters of Bally’s Corp. – the two companies selected to operate online games under the state lottery commission’s oversight.
The law faced little opposition after the idea was introduced on behalf of Bally’s and its operating partner, IGT at a Wednesday afternoon luncheon held by the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce in February.
From there, the House introduced a bill that some lottery officials thought might be unconstitutional due to the way table gaming was legalized in the state. Then the Senate introduced and approved a “substitute” bill earlier this month with a “fix” that boiled down to removing digital table games and allowing only for live dealer online casino games.
Gov.Dan McKee signed Senate Bill 948 into law on Thursday (22 June), giving Bally’a land-based casino monopoly in iGaming unheard of elsewhere in America. IGT is right there with them holding not only the tech side of the deal, the supply side of the video lottery terminal business for the land casinos, and the sports betting contract with Bally’s and the state but a multi-decade lottery concession.
The online casino or casinos, which Bally’s would have servers located within one or both of the state’s only two land-based casinos to host – Bally’s Twin Rivers Lincoln Casino Resort and Bally’s Tiverton Casino & Hotel – would be managed by the Rhode Island Lottery (RILOT).
“This legislation provides an added convenience to Rhode Islanders who would like to play the existing table games offered at Twin River via their mobile devices,” said the bill’s sponsor and president of the senate Dominick J Ruggerio.
“This is a focused version of igaming that is ready for implementation. This igaming legislation is constitutional, is geared to mature users, contains education provisions for problem gamblers, and preserves the revenue allocation percentages as they are currently in place.”
Not Everyone Happy With the “Monopoly”
Competitors such as a gaming alliance that includes DraftKings did speak up against the continued “monopoly” earlier but were simply not heard when it came down to getting the job done.
New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Connecticut preceded RI in authorizing online casinos and so did Nevada. However, while the Nevada legislation authorized online slots and other games, online poker regulations were written to go along with the law so no online casinos were ever launched in Nevada.
The original bill sought a start to gaming as early as January 1, 2024, and while that is still possible, the new law set a starting date of March 1, 2024.
Rhode Island becomes seventh state to legalise igaming, iGaming Business, June 22, 2023