The smallest state in the Union has joined a growing crowd. Rhode Island‘s Twin River Casino in Lincoln opened its doors for sports betting on Nov. 26. With the debut, Rhode Island became the eighth state to offer sports betting to its citizens.
The sportsbook opened on its third floor, next to simulcast racing. Bettors will find a large number of betting terminals available to place their first wagers.
Additionally, there are more betting terminals on the first-floor grandstand. Casino management has declared that these machines will become available during peak traffic times. The new sportsbook features wall-mounted televisions and odds monitors, as is customary in most sportsbooks. Patrons will also be able use countertop televisions to observe the outcomes of their bets.
The facility is only a temporary one, however. Twin River management expects to open the permanent facility in a few weeks.
The second phase venue will spread across 3,600 square feet and feature seating for 200 guests, and 100 television screens will dot the permanent sportsbook.
Late launch hurts everyone involved
The debut of sports betting in the Ocean State came almost two months later than expected. Casino managers were attempting an Oct. 1 launch before delaying due to issues with integrating the book’s software and operations.
The lag came at an unfortunate time in the sports betting calendar. Rhode Island has now missed out on the majority of football season, which is sports betting’s most frenzied period each year. Bettors also lost the opportunity to wager on the Boston Red Sox in the World Series.
The financial impact works out to cutting the expected handle and revenue in half. Gov. Gina Raimondo budgeted $23.5 million in tax revenue from sports betting, but will likely realize only $11 million or so this year.
The reduction in sports betting revenue will strike the state’s pocketbook harder than most due to Rhode Island’s unique revenue-sharing scheme with its casinos. In fact, the state stands to gain the majority of revenue from sports betting, not the casinos themselves. Here’s the breakdown:
- State – 51 percent
- IGT – 32 percent
- Casino – 17 percent
Such a division would not be possible in a larger state with stronger casino interests. Rhode Island’s casinos operate more like state-run facilities than casinos in any other state. So, the effect of a delay or a bad return is magnified more than it typically would be.
The future for Rhode Island sports betting
Obviously, most of the state’s attention is on the Lincoln facility. However, Twin River is one of two casinos in the Ocean State.
The other casino, Tiverton Casino Hotel, is unsurprisingly located in Tiverton. The new venue opened for business in September and replaced the Newport Grand Casino.
Twin River Holdings owns and operates both casinos, and has already indicated that the Tiverton property will have a sports betting facility as well. However, it will likely be more a collection of betting kiosks than a bona fide sportsbook.
There is no timeframe for the debut of the Tiverton facility. However, if the company has worked out its integration issues, the launch could occur shortly.
At present, online sports betting in Rhode Island remains forbidden under law. The law to allow land-based wagering did not include a provision for online wagering.
However, a strong showing at the new facility could turn hearts in the Rhode Island legislature. Given that online sports betting has demonstrated that it can generate more revenue than land-based betting (in places like New Jersey), a bill or amendment to the existing law would not be a major surprise.