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Rhode Island Lawmakers Propose Legalizing Online Casinos

Written By Katarina Vojvodic | Updated:
online gambling in Rhode Island on the table for state legislature

President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio and Rep. Gregory J. Costantino submitted legislation yesterday to permit online casinos in Rhode Island.

The effective date of SB948 is Jan. 1, 2024, subject to the finalization of relevant regulations.

The measure will have to make its way through the Rhode Island General Assembly, which will not adjourn before Jun. 30. For the time being, the bill waits in the Senate Special Legislation and Veterans Affairs Committee.

The legislation was previously requested and pushed by Bally’s Corporation. The company wished to increase state revenue and better position the state’s casinos in the competitive New England gaming market.

Representative Costantino represents the district where Bally’s Twin River is located in Lincoln.

How can Rhode Island profit from the Senate bill?

Senator Ruggerio (D-North Providence) is the bill’s primary sponsor. In yesterday’s announcement by the Rhode Island General Assembly, Ruggerio and speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi said:

“This legislation is a first step in the public review process around potential iGaming in Rhode Island. Our state casinos provide an important source of revenue to fund vital programs and investments that benefit all Rhode Islanders.

The companies that manage casino operations on behalf of the state have made significant investments to ensure they are well positioned to thrive in the years ahead, much of which was required under legislation we sponsored known as the Marc A. Crisafulli Act.”

They also emphasized that the state must continue exploring all avenues to protect and strengthen its competitive position. That also includes the potential for online gambling.

As with all gaming operations, the state would retain regulatory control of online gambling if it were to be enacted.

The president and speaker also noted: “The Senate and House Finance Committees will now begin a rigorous public review process during which all aspects of the proposal will be thoroughly examined, including proper protections.”

What is known about the Rhode Island online casino bill so far?

The online casino bill is subject to a 50% tax rate on online slots and 18% on table games. So far, the measure doesn’t mention any details about live dealer games.

The tax compares to the 51% that Rhode Island sportsbooks pay. Rhode Island legalized online sports betting in March 2019, launching the market in September 2019.

The online casino bill doesn’t mention the gambling age. But as in most US jurisdictions, sports bettors in Rhode Island must be at least 18.

The Rhode Island Lottery would run Rhode Island online casinos.

Bally’s wants lawmakers to legalize online casinos in Rhode Island

Bally’s requested legislative and executive branch approval in Rhode Island to introduce online casino gaming at the General Assembly. As announced on Feb. 15, Bally’s is ready to offer online gambling in the state.

In its recent study conducted by Spectrum Gaming, Bally’s Corporation estimated that Rhode Island could generate:

  • An estimated $93.3 million of gross gaming revenue in the first year
  • An estimated $130.6 million in the fifth year
  • Potential gaming taxes for Rhode Island of $210 million over five years

They anticipate little to no play switching from in-person at retail casinos to online gaming.

Bally’s currently operates two brick-and-mortar casinos in Rhode Island:

  • Bally’s Twin River Lincoln
  • Bally’s Tiverton

If online casinos become legal in the state, only those two gaming venues would have the right to possess licenses. In the meantime, the company’s consortium partner IGT accepts online sports bets through an app run by Bally’s.

Photo by PlayUSA
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Katarina Vojvodic

Katarina Vojvodic is a lead writer for PlayUSA who lives in Toronto. Vojvodic provides coverage of the US gambling industry with a focus on US online casinos. Previously, she covered Ontario’s online gambling industry for PlayCanada.com. Vojvodic holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Belgrade. Outside working hours, she can be found near the water with her husband and their two kids.

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