Rhode Island to Push for Mobile Sports Betting in 2019
The delayed and messed-up launch of sports betting in Rhode Island is making lawmakers take a look into expanding into mobile gaming. Rhode Island’s Senate President has introduced a bill that would make it legal to place online or mobile bets on sporting events.
The sports betting vendors Twin River and IGT were very late starting the state’s sports gambling program and the forecasted revenue amount for the year had to be downgraded from $23.5 mill to $11.5 million, with the numbers likely falling further.
Visitors to Twin River’s sportsbook found long lines and small crowds due to the slowness in processing bets by the staff. The first week’s data means it will even be hard to meet the $11.5 million revenue number for the state.
Senate President Dominick Ruggerio Weighs In
Dominick Ruggerio (Dem-4th District) has a totally different view of what’s going on at Twin River. Ruggerio claimed that the popularity of sports betting created the long lines and a need for mobile betting:
“The new in-person sportsbook that opened in November has been very popular, with lines stretching out the doors. It is an entertainment option that many Rhode Islanders enjoy, and visitors from outside the state are also flocking to our gaming facilities to place their wagers on sporting events. Expanding to mobile gaming would provide a convenient option for those wishing to enjoy this form of entertainment, and open up the economic benefits beyond the walls of Twin River.”
Ruggerio continued his thoughts on the topic by describing a scenario where he can envision friends spending time at a restaurant or sports bar where they can eat, enjoy good company, watch a game and place a wager. With that said, the Senate President doesn’t lack empathy for those who have to wait in the long lines.
Ruggerio’s spokesperson, Greg Pare, explained that Ruggerio is aware of the wait times and long lines at Twin River.
“The Senate President shares the frustration of consumers regarding long lines and wait times for sports wagering at Twin River. He has expressed these concerns both publicly and to Twin River officials. New Kiosks are expected to be active in March, which will help alleviate backups, as will mobile sports gaming should his legislation be approved.”
According to News Talk 630am WPRO, Ruggerio said more regarding the waits at sportsbooks, and how mobile betting could help:
“With the big crowds that are going up to Twin River, I think we need some kind of an app because people are getting disenchanted with the long waits up there, and a lot of people have walked out of there without placing bets. We don’t want that.”
Ruggerio went on to declare that now is a good time to put a bill through:
“A lot of people do DraftKings and things like that, but what you’re seeing now is lot of these young people do this and they do it on offshore, and obviously we want to capture that money here and we have a golden opportunity because right now we’re the only one in New England that does this, so we’ve got to get it right.”
Ruggerio’s Potential Legislation
The Senate President’s legislation would allow for the creation of a sports gaming app that bettors could use to access any sports gaming offerings at the Twin River casino from anywhere in Rhode Island.
The bill would require anyone wishing to set up an account to do it in person at the casino and, after that, they could place a wager from anywhere within the state’s borders. The system would use technology to locate a person within RI before allowing them to place a wager.
He says that when residents and visitors to the state can place mobile bets, the crowds at Twin River will thin out and greatly increase the amount of revenue the sportsbooks could take in, thus increasing the tax and fee revenue that would go to the state.
House Speaker Nick Mattiello Agrees
Rhode Island’s Speaker of the House also shared his thoughts with GoLocalProv:
“I am aware the legislation is a priority of Senate President Ruggerio’s, so that makes it an important issue when he introduces it. If his proposal enhances the gaming experience for Rhode Islanders while providing additional revenue for the state, it is certainly an idea worthy of a thorough review.”
Mattiello’s sentiments are echoed by many other state leaders looking to capitalize on the potential tax revenue from sports betting. However, there are still some dissenters in the Legislature that might prove to be difficult to persuade.
House Minority Leader Representative Blake Filippi Disagrees
Filippi questions if mobile betting is even a legal option:
“The preliminary and central question is whether this proposal is even constitutional. The People through ballot question approved casino gambling at Twin River in Lincoln, and subsequently, in Tiverton. To start, the proponents need to produce a well-reasoned legal opinion regarding this proposal’s legality.”
Rep. Filippi gets his way and makes this go to a vote, then Rhode Island could have to wait another year before allowing mobile sports betting within the state. That would be a massive fail by the state’s leaders if it goes that way, because they will be losing out on millions of dollars in tax revenue.
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