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
  • 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).

  • Focus on Longevity and Reputability
  • These two factors indicate a
    quality offshore gaming site that serves players well enough to continue
    doing business.

  • Google/Bing Customer Complaints
  • 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.

  • Make Sure Bonus Terms & Conditions are Fair
  • Bonus wagering
    requirements determine how quickly you can cash out your bonus. The industry
    standard is 40x the bonus.

  • Live Chat with Customer Support
  • Ask customer service a quick
    question through live chat. This helps you gauge their friendliness and
    promptness.

Also On This Page

More Gambling Laws in Rhode Island

  • Casino Games: Legal
  • Sports Betting: Illegal
  • Poker: Legal
  • Racing Betting: Legal
  • Lottery: Legal
  • Bingo: Legal
  • Charitable Gambling: Legal
  • Social Gambling: Not Specified

Casinos: Legal


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 is 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.

Lottery: Legal


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.

Poker: Legal


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.

Racing: Legal


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.

Rhode Island

    1) Newport Grand Casino

    150 Admiral Kalbfus Road

    Newport, RI 02840

    2) Twin River Casino

    100 Twin River Road

    Lincoln, RI 02865

    3) 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.

1700-1800

Rhode Island towns use lotteries to generate tax revenue.

1896

State Legislature bans all forms of gambling.

1920s

Police raid illegal gambling venues.

1934

Voters approve pari-mutuel betting with over 80% in favor; Narragansett Race Track opens the same year.

1947

Lincoln Downs Race Track opens.

1974

Rhode Island Lottery is approved.

1977

Lincoln Downs drops horseracing and begins exclusively offering greyhound racing; changes it’s name to Lincoln Greyhound Park.

1978

Narragansett Racetrack closes due to low horseracing revenue.

1979

Rhode Island State Police is given responsibility to enforce charity gaming laws.

1983

Charities barred from offering poker and casino nights.

1990

Narragansett Tribe negotiates for casino gambling under Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

1993

State racetracks are approved to offer slot machines (a.k.a. racinos).

1994

Voters reject Narragansett Tribe’s casino proposal.

2003

Lincoln Park is approved for more video gaming machines, which angers Narragansett Tribe.

2006

Narragansett Tribe’s casino proposal rejected again.

2007

Lincoln Park adds $220 million expansion and opens under the name Twin River Casino.

2009

Charitable bingo was ruled legal in Jefferson County with an amendment to the state constitution. Under this law, a charitable bingo operation can’t give more than $7,500 dollars worth of prize money a week and the rest of the money must go to the charity, with the exception of some expenses. The operations could only be open for 2 sessions a week lasting no longer than 5 hours each

2012

Voters approve measure for Twin River Casino to offer table games.

2015

Twin River opens state’s first poker room; also given permission to open hotel (scheduled for 2018).

2016

Voters narrowly approve new casino in Tiverton, which is scheduled to open in July 2018; Attorney General declares that daily fantasy sports are legal.

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:

Are Daily Fantasy Sports Legal in Rhode Island?

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.

Will Rhode Island Legalize Online Gambling?

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.

Why hasn’t Rhode Island Legalized Internet Gambling?

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.

Can I Gamble on My Smartphone and Tablet in Rhode Island?

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.

Additional Resources

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 Gaming & Athletics
  • This department is responsible for the state’s gaming 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.