Guide to Rhode Island Gambling
Rhode Island is America's smallest state by land (1,545 sq. miles) and one of the smallest by population (1.055m).
Despite their tiny stature, the Ocean State has carved out a decent sized gambling market. They currently have two racinos (soon to be three), a lottery and a poker room.
The one thing missing, though, is legal and regulated online gambling.
Will this happen any time soon? Can you currently play at online gaming sites in Rhode Island?
These are two of the most important questions that we'll answer as we discuss Rhode Island's gambling laws.
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Online Gambling and Rhode Island Law
Rhode Island is one of many states that doesn't address Internet gambling. Their criminal code includes no mention of terms like "computer" or "Internet."
This has led to a wide range of online casinos, poker rooms and sportsbooks serving the Ocean State.
The presence of these offshore sites doesn't make Internet gambling legal though. Let's look at Rhode Island's laws to get more context on the situation.
Is Online Gambling Legal in Rhode Island?
No, but it's not explicitly illegal either.
Statue 11-19-1 from their criminal code explains prohibited forms of gambling as follows:
"Every person who shall, directly or indirectly, set up, put forth, carry on, promote, or draw, publicly or privately, any lottery, chance, game, or device of any nature or kind whatsoever, or by whatsoever name it may be called, for the purpose of exposing, setting for sale or disposing of any money, houses, lands, merchandise, or articles of value, or shall sell or expose to sale lottery policies, purporting to be governed by the drawing of any public or private lottery, or shall sign or endorse any book, document, or paper whatsoever, for the purpose of enabling others to sell, or expose to sale, lottery policies, except as authorized in this chapter and in title 41 and chapters 61 and 61.2 of title 42, shall be deemed guilty of a felony and shall be imprisoned not exceeding two (2) years or be fined not exceeding two thousand dollars ($2,000)."
This law mentions the word "lottery" multiple times because Rhode Island banned lotteries in the late 1890s. Although it mentions lotteries, this convoluted passage fails to mention gambling.
This doesn't mean that code 11-19-1 gives offshore companies free reign to operate in the state though. In fact, the words "chance" and "game" likely make them illegal in the state.
Overall, Rhode Island is definitely in a grey area regarding online gambling.
Why does Rhode Island Allow Offshore Gambling Sites?
Rhode Island doesn't allow Internet gambling sites.
It is also one of the smallest states in the nation. Even if they wanted to, they don't have the resources or manpower to pursue offshore gaming companies located thousands of miles away.
This isn't to say that the Ocean State won't bust online gambling operators within their own state. 20 people who were running an illegal bookmaking business found this out the hard way. Dubbed Operation Free Roll, Rhode Island State Police raided properties in several towns to catch the ring.
The ringleaders used what's called a Price Per Head bookmaking model, where they referred local bettors to offshore websites. The bookies covered and received all of the action. In exchange, they paid the offshore sites a standard fee on each player.
The offshore sites in question were BetCapri.com and VIPBettors.com, based in Panama and Costa Rica, respectively.
The big difference here, though, is that these men were living on Rhode Island soil. It makes a huge difference when police can catch illegal bookies in-state.
Will I be arrested for Gambling Online in Rhode Island?
It's possible, but there's almost no chance of you being arrested.
We say it's possible because code 11-19-21 discusses the penalty for somebody who frequents a gambling place:
"Every person who shall frequent any gambling house or place where gaming is practiced or carried on, not in the performance of official duty and not being the landlord of that place entering to view the premises, shall be imprisoned not exceeding thirty (30) days."
It's a stretch to compare frequenting an online gaming site with visiting an illegal land-based gambling venue, but there still is a connection if Rhode Island feels like pursuing this type of crime.
Again, the odd of you being arrested for Internet gambling is almost zero.
Rhode Island has never arrested anybody simply for playing online casino games, poker or making Internet sports bets. If they haven't done so by now, we don't see it happening.
Are Offshore Gaming Sites Safe?
The good thing about online gaming sites is that they're available for Rhode Island gamblers. The bad news is that they're not licensed anywhere in the U.S.
This means that you take your risks by depositing at any offshore sites.
Luckily, most of these companies are reputable operations that have been in business for years. That doesn't mean you don't need to watch out for the few bad apples.
Here are some tips to find quality offshore gaming sites:
- Read Reviews
- Focus on Longevity and Reputability
- Google/Bing Customer Complaints
- Make Sure Bonus Terms & Conditions are Fair
- Live Chat with Customer Support
This step may be obvious, but it's the first thing you should do for any prospective site. Reviews cover a wide range of important topics including bonuses, promotions, game variety, banking options and customer support.
Make Sure You can Use an Available Banking Option - One of the key things you should focus on when looking at reviews is the banking options. After all, if an offshore site doesn't have a deposit method you can use, then you're wasting your time (unless you want to play for free).
These two factors indicate a quality offshore gaming site that serves players well enough to continue doing business.
Google or Bing the site that you're interested in followed by "complaints." Every casino, poker room or sports betting site will have some unhappy customers. The key to look for is that they're not flooded with complaints.
Bonus wagering requirements determine how quickly you can cash out your bonus. The industry standard is 40x the bonus.
Ask customer service a quick question through live chat. This helps you gauge their friendliness and promptness.
Breaking down what is or isn't legal in Rhode Island. Gambling Venues in Rhode Island
Where to gamble in the state of Rhode Island. The History of Gaming Laws in Rhode Island
A brief history of Rhode Island laws regarding gambling. Rhode Island Gambling FAQs
A list of questions asked about gambling in Rhode Island Additional Information
Still have questions? Check out these links. The Future of Gambling in Rhode Island
What does the future of gambling look like in Rhode Island?
More Gambling Laws in Rhode Island
The Ocean State currently features two racinos: Twin River and Newport Grand Casino.
Both of these racinos used to profit from their live racing, but today, these venues rely on their slots revenue to keep them going.
Voters approved Twin River to offer table games in 2012. This was seen as a necessary move because the casino was struggling and needed a boost.
Twin River Tiverton ass scheduled to be completed in July 2018. This casino site is located near the Massachusetts border, which will allow Rhode Island to better compete with out of state competition.
Charitable Gambling: Legal
Rhode Island's charitable gambling laws used to be more liberal until they amended the laws in 1983 to take away casino nights and poker tournaments.
Today, licensed charities can only hold bingo and raffles to earn gambling revenue. The following stipulations apply:
- Only members of the charity can manage the game.
- 100% of the proceeds must go to the designated cause.
- Players must be 18 or over.
Started in 1974, the Rhode Island Lottery features the following games: Lucky for Life, Mega Millions, Powerball, Wild Money and different scratch off tickets.
This state also offers video lottery terminals at the Twin River Casino and Newport Grand Casino.
Twin River Casino has the only poker room in Rhode Island. This venue features 16 tables, which offer 7-card stud and Texas hold 'em.
The Plantation State hasn't had much luck with its live racing industry.
Lincoln Park discontinued its thoroughbred racing in 1977. They replaced this with greyhound racing and offered that until 2009.
Today, the state's pari-mutuel facilities, Twin River (formerly Lincoln Park) and Newport Grand, no longer offer live racing. They instead, focus on their gaming machines and table games.
Social Gambling: Not Specified
Rhode Island doesn't directly address social gambling in their criminal code.
The only thing we see that comes close is code 11-19-20, which reads as follows:
"Every person who shall, on any pretext whatsoever, invite, entice, persuade, or induce any other person to visit any house, room, or other place kept for the purpose of gambling, with the intent that that other person shall at that place engage in gambling or playing at any game of chance, for money or other valuable consideration, shall be fined not less than five hundred dollars ($500) and be imprisoned one year."
This law fails to specify whether the host is still subject to penalties if they're not trying to profit. Nevertheless, up to one year in prison is still a stiff punishment.
The good news is that we can't find one instance of somebody being arrested at a social gambling function. Our guess is that as long as the host isn't imposing a house edge or selling food and drinks, the game is perfectly fine.
Gambling Venues in Rhode Island
Rhode Island's three racinos feature over 6,700 gaming machines and 125 table games.
Twin River Casino is the largest in the state with 4,200 slot machines and 90 table games. Set to be completed in 2018, Twin River Tiverton will feature over 1,000 slot machines and 32 table games.
Below, you can see more details on Rhode Island's casino gaming industry.
Newport Grand Casino
150 Admiral Kalbfus Road, Newport, RI 02840
Twin River Casino
100 Twin River Road, Lincoln, RI 02865
Twin River Tiverton Casino
1199 William S. Canning Blvd., Tiverton, RI, 02878
History of Gambling in Rhode Island
Not only is Rhode Island one of the oldest states, but it also has one of the oldest gambling histories too.
Villages used lotteries to fund projects and governments in the 1700s and 1800s until the government banned lotteries and other forms of gaming in 1896.
Gambling still continued into the early 1900s until police started cracking down on illegal betting hubs.
It wasn't until 1934 that the state legalized pari-mutuel betting, giving Rhode Island its first official form of legal gambling.
In 1974, the Rhode Island Lottery was approved. Charitable gambling was legalized just five years later in 1979.
One of the most important events in Rhode Island's gambling history includes the opening of Lincoln Downs Race Track in 1947. This is significant because Lincoln Downs would eventually become the Twin River Casino in 2007.
Twin River and Newport Grand are currently the state's only racinos, but Twin River Tiverton will join them in 2018.
Rhode Island hasn't taken any serious steps towards legalizing online gambling. Hopefully this changes in the future, but there is nothing on the horizon for now.
Rhode Island towns use lotteries to generate tax revenue.
Police raid illegal gambling venues.
Lincoln Downs Race Track opens.
Lincoln Downs drops horseracing and begins exclusively offering greyhound racing; changes it's name to Lincoln Greyhound Park.
Rhode Island State Police is given responsibility to enforce charity gaming laws.
Narragansett Tribe negotiates for casino gambling under Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
Narragansett Tribe's casino proposal rejected again.
Twin River files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy; state grants them permission to stay open 24/7 to help out.
Voters approve measure for Twin River Casino to offer table games.
Voters narrowly approve new casino in Tiverton, which is scheduled to open in July 2018; Attorney General declares that daily fantasy sports are legal.
State Legislature bans all forms of gambling.
Voters approve pari-mutuel betting with over 80% in favor; Narragansett Race Track opens the same year.
Rhode Island Lottery is approved.
Narragansett Racetrack closes due to low horseracing revenue.
Charities barred from offering poker and casino nights.
State racetracks are approved to offer slot machines (a.k.a. racinos).
Voters reject Narragansett Tribe's casino proposal.
Lincoln Park is approved for more video gaming machines, which angers Narragansett Tribe.
Lincoln Park adds $220 million expansion and opens under the name Twin River Casino.
Twin River opens state's first poker room; also given permission to open hotel (scheduled for 2018).
Rhode Island FAQs
The Ocean State doesn't offer much information on their Internet gambling stance. This means that many players have questions regarding Rhode Island's iGaming laws.
Here are a few FAQs that we've recently received:
According to a February 2016 letter by Rhode Island Attorney General, Peter Kilmartin, daily fantasy sports (DFS) are legal. Here's one excerpt from Kilmartin:
"Although we believe that DFS does implicate certain provisions of existing civil and criminal statutes, it is the opinion of this office that Daily Fantasy Sports may currently operate legally in the State of Rhode Island."
This has allowed industry leaders DraftKings and FanDuel to continue operating in the Plantation State.
No DNo DFS legislation is on the table right now, but we wouldn't be surprised if Rhode Island regulates the market at some point in the future.
Maybe, but it won't be for a while.
Rhode Island has offered encouraging signs that they're interested in the matter.
Lottery Director, Gerald S. Aubin told the Providence Journal that they would explore Internet gambling. The state also had talks with Delaware about signing an interstate poker compact if they ever legalize Internet poker.
Much of this came on the heels of the U.S. Department of Justice's 2011 opinion that the federal Wire Act only applies to sports betting.
This important opinion has given Rhode Island and other states confidence that they're completely in the right to offer iGaming.
The The only problem is that the Plantation State hasn't taken any serious steps towards making legal online gambling happen. But we believe that legislation will come one day though.
First off, Rhode Island's population of just over 1 million doesn't make them a great candidate for Internet gambling.
For comparison, similarly sized Delaware (952.1k residents) hasn't experienced much success with their regulated iGaming market.
Another issue is that Rhode Island's Twin River racino has struggled. They're mainly concerned with making sure that Twin River succeeds - along with Newport Grand and the future Twin River Tiverton - before they launch into iGaming.
PerhPerhaps in 3 to 5 years Rhode Island will be more serious about regulating the activity.
The Rhode Island Constitution mentions "device" plenty of times in regards to illegal lotteries and policy slips, but they don't mention illegal gambling devices regarding casino and poker games.
Given the state's grey area regarding online gambling, you're likely fine to gamble on your mobile devices.
The Rhode Island Lottery regulates both racinos and lottery games. The State Police and Games & Athletics Department also have a hand in managing the gaming industry.
Here's a closer look at these agencies, along with more on the state's gambling laws.
Rhode Island Lottery- The Rhode Island Lottery website mostly covers the state's lottery products. You can find out more on the racinos by visiting the "Games" and "Video Lottery" options.
Rhode Island Racing & Athletics- This department is responsible for the state's racing industry, along with overseeing other athletic contests in the state.
Rhode Island State Police- Any eligible group wanting to offer chary gambling must contact the State Police's Charitable Gaming Unit. Their page contains some laws and charity gambling application forms.
Rhode Island Gambling Laws- This website covers the main gambling laws for Rhode Island. If you have questions beyond what we've covered, this is a great page to visit.
The Future & Your Views
Roger Williams settled in Rhode Island in 1636 after he was expelled from Massachusetts for preaching religious freedoms. The Ocean State would quickly become one of the most liberal colonies afterward.
Given this history, it's little surprise that Rhode Island takes a relaxed approach to DFS and other forms of online gambling.
Their attorney general declared DFS to be legal since it's a game of skill, and they have never arrested anybody for playing any form of iGaming.
The only thing missing is a serious push to legalize and regulate the activity.
Aside from conversations following the U.S. DOJ's 2011 opinion on the Wire Act, Rhode Island has been pretty silent about online gambling.
We assume that they'll remain this way until the racino situation is settled and all three are at least close to profitability.
The good thing is that Rhode Island residents have a lot of offshore iGaming options to keep them busy in the meantime.