he long-awaited piece of legislation provides for mobile sports betting through Rhode Island's Twin River casinos in Lincoln and Tiverton.
This bill (2019-S 0037), introduced by Senate President Dominick Ruggerio on Wednesday, made it possible for Governor Gina Raimondo to include millions in potential new gambling revenue in the proposed 2019-20 budget she delivers to lawmakers 24 hours later.
As reported by Providence Journal, the state would get 51 percent of “all winnings″ from sports wagering, which Ruggerio hails as one of “the highest rates in the country″ as states venture farther and farther into this new gambling arena, enabled by a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year. Twin River’s “sports book” opened in December.
On Wednesday morning, the Senate leadership office released a copy of the legislation allowing the two Twin River-owned casinos to host this form of gambling, and a legal opinion from Adler Pollock & Sheehan lawyer John Tarantino asserting that no voter referendum is necessary.
In the opinion he provided the Rhode Island Lottery which, by law, is supposed to run the privately owned Twin River casinos in Lincoln and Tiverton, Tarantino cited past votes to allow full-fledged casino gambling at the state’s video-slot parlors.
"In short, the voters gave their approval for more than just on-premises gambling in the 2012, 2014, and 2016 referendums. They approved measures allowing forms of gaming that relied on—or at least included—off-site participation. Consequently, requiring that specific municipalities approve remote gambling before casinos can take bets from residents would undermine the voters’ intent."
In a press release issued on Wednesday morning, Ruggerio said: "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. I can envision a group of friends from out-of-state spending an evening out in a local establishment where they can both watch the game and place a wager."
As he explained the workings:
"The legislation would enable the creation of an app consumers could use to access the sports gaming offerings at Twin River from anyplace within the parameters of the state of Rhode Island.
Consumers must initially set up their accounts in person at Twin River, and thereafter could place a wager from anywhere in the state. They must be physically in the state of Rhode Island in order to wager. The system would utilize technology to determine the location of any person placing a wager, and would not accept wagers from outside of the state’s boundaries.
“Similar to other states, such as New Jersey, wagering is received upon a server-based gaming system located on the premises of the casinos, and therefore deemed to be placed and accepted at the casino."
"It is estimated that 97 percent of sports betting takes place illegally. This is an opportunity to give Rhode Islanders and visitors a legal avenue to participate in an activity they enjoy, while providing a very tangible benefit to our state....[that] supports critical state services, like road and bridge repairs, education and human services. This revenue offsets reliance on taxes for state needs.
The only negative reaction so far to the legislation has come from new Sen. Sam Bell, D-Providence, who tweeted: “I was hoping this bill would be crafted in a way I could support it, but unfortunately, it has not been. This bill violates the constitution’s voter approval requirement and creates an un-American monopoly for Twin River. This is an unchecked abuse of corporate power."