When 2023 began, it was a fresh year full of hope and promise for the expansion of legal real-money online casinos in the United States. About five months in, that shiny potential had been trampled and left for dead in most of the country.
On Thursday, however, Rhode Island Gov. Daniel McKee revived the desecrated aspirations by signing a bill that legalizes online casino play in the state. With that pen stroke, Rhode Islanders are just months away from having legal access to Bally’s online casino.
McKee makes it official; online casino play is legal in Rhode Island
Without much fanfare, S 948 became law on Thursday. The Rhode Island online casino law essentially extends the existing relationship between Bally’s and the Rhode Island Lottery. Previously, Bally’s had a contract with the Lottery to operate the state’s two brick-and-mortar casinos.
With this change, Bally’s will make casino games available to people in the state online, too. That includes both slots and various table games. The table game menu will include live dealer options like baccarat, blackjack, and craps.
Rhode Island is the seventh US state to legalize online casino games for real money. Neighboring Connecticut was the sixth to do so. Regulations affecting players are still forthcoming but the law sets a minimum age of 21 for the online casino platform in congruity with other forms of gaming in Rhode Island.
While details are still scant regarding what exactly the Bally’s-powered online casino platform in Rhode Island will entail, it’s possible to make some conjectures. Bally’s is already quite familiar with the online casino game.
What can players expect from Bally’s online casino?
For most players, the most pertinent piece of information will be how soon they can actually start playing the games online. The law sets a deadline of March 1, 2024, for Bally’s and the Lottery to launch the games. It’s possible that could happen earlier, though.
Bally’s already operates an online casino in two of the most competitive and lucrative states with legal online gambling, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. In both of those states, Bally’s has invested a lot of resources into its mobile app for Android and iOS devices.
For that reason, it is fair to expect a dedicated app for Rhode Island online casino play. Additionally, the app might offer some games players on a desktop website can’t play. Bally’s has partnered with some of the most popular game development studios like Scientific Games to ensure that it has a competitive menu of slot titles.
In New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Bally’s aims to keep players engaged by offering daily bonus games and special promotions specific to certain days of the week. Among the common criticisms of the app in those markets, however, is a small selection of table game titles compared to other apps.
While there was some debate over whether to essentially hand Bally’s a monopoly over online casino play in Rhode Island, the fact that Bally’s will be the only legal option for online casino play in the state actually has an upside for players. Rhode Islanders could be among the first to sample some unique elements.
Rhode Island could be a perfect test market
Due to its population and size, Rhode Island acts as a kind of ready-made guinea pig for new features or games that Bally’s wants to test before introducing it into larger states. To be clear, Bally’s has made no announcements that it will operate in that fashion.
Should that materialize, however, it would mean Rhode Islanders could get first crack at such additions. Rhode Island could act as a leader in another way, too. While several other states considered legalizing online casinos in 2023, a common obstacle blocked progress there.
In other states like Indiana and Iowa, fears that legalizing online casino play would harm physical casinos’ revenues paralyzed online casino bills. Should Bally’s Tiverton and Twin River land-based casinos continue to thrive even as the online casino ramps up, it would provide even more evidence that such worries are illegitimate.
Rhode Island might have been the last of the original 13 US states to ratify the US Constitution but it’s a leader for online casino gaming in 2023.