Two Rhode Island casinos, enjoying the crowds drawn by the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and legal sports betting in the state, have added newly launched self-service kiosks for placing sports bets. This is to help with the large casino crowds waiting in line to place sports wagers. However, just a few weeks ago, things came to a head within the GOP over gambling. There was a split that divided those for and against this industry as a whole. Although it appears that things are continuing to evolve with sports betting in Rhode Island, there’s still a lot of tension with the state’s leaders and it’s impacting whether or not RI will legalize mobile betting.
Twin River Casino added five self-service kiosks to its Tiverton location and 17 to its Lincoln location in order to reduce the lines at ticket windows. The kiosks went online last Friday, just in time for the start of the NCAA basketball tournament. Another change at the Lincoln casinos is extended betting hours, put into effect for March Madness.
The kiosks are positioned throughout the floor of the casino. Inside the sportsbook at the Lincoln location, there were hundreds of fans crammed wall-to-wall at noon on Thursday, the first full day of the tournament.
Officials there won’t say how much money they’ll take in during 2019 since this is the first year of sports betting in Rhode Island. Without anything to compare it to, it’s hard to tell. However, executives at the casinos are already seeing steady business. Twin River VP and GM Craig Sculos spoke with NBC 10 about this increase in sports betting:
“After the Super Bowl, (this is) the most hyped-up event for sports bettors… What we can say from a foot-traffic standpoint, is it has been busy. The lines were starting to form by 10:00 this morning.”
Sports betting was illegal outside of Nevada since 1992, when a federal law called the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, or PASPA, was enacted. The law was taken all the way to the Supreme Court and in May 2018, the SCOTUS justices ruled that PASPA was unconstitutional and overturned it. That left each state free to make its own sports betting rules and regulations.
Since then, seven states have legalized and operational sports gambling, including Rhode Island, and two more have legalized but have not yet opened sportsbooks. Another 20 or more states have legislation introduced but not yet passed.
For Rhode Island, they were one of the first states to legalize sports betting, but are still struggling to figure out how best to implement other aspects like mobile wagering.
Earlier in March lawmakers sent to the Governor a bill that would expand Rhode Island’s sports gambling law to allow bettors to make online wagers. It’s very likely the Governor will sign the bill since her proposed budget includes revenue from online and mobile sports gambling. Furthermore, mobile betting will drastically cut down on packed crowds at the casinos and generate more revenue for the state. However, all indications are that mobile betting will be a heavily debated issue and it’s uncertain when this gambling aspect will be legal.
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