After clearing Finance Committee

Rhode Island moves closer to potential online gaming legalization as bill heads to House floor

Rhode Island legislature
Reading time 1:43 min

Rhode Island could become the seventh state in the US to legalize online casino games, pending approval from the House and the governor's signature. The Senate approved bill SB 948 with a strong majority of 30-4, and now it moves to the House floor for a potential vote. The legislation advanced to the floor after the Finance Committee voted 10-2 in favor of its approval.

If the bill passes, Bally's will be the exclusive operator for iGaming in Rhode Island. The amended version of the bill also permits live online table games featuring on-screen dealers simulcasted from a remote location. This amendment aims to address concerns about the bill's compliance with state regulations that require "one live person" in online table games.

Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio, who authored and presented the bill, expressed the importance of exploring avenues to protect and strengthen Rhode Island's competitive position in the gambling industry, including the potential for iGaming.

Ruggerio stated: "Our state casinos provide an important source of revenue to fund vital programs and investments that benefit all Rhode Islanders. The companies that manage casino operations on behalf of the state have made significant investments to ensure they are well positioned to thrive in the years ahead." 

Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio

Under the bill's provisions, players must register their iGaming accounts in person at the Bally's casino in Rhode Island and be at least 21 years old. Bally's will offer games through the IGT platform, which already operates in the state's brick-and-mortar casinos. The state plans to impose a 61% tax on online slot revenue and a 15.5% tax on online table game revenues.

According to a tax revenue study commissioned by Bally's, Rhode Island could potentially generate an additional $93.3 million in gross gaming revenue in the first year of iGaming operations, and up to $130.6 million by the fifth year. This projected growth translates to approximately $210 million in additional tax revenue for the state over a five-year period.

Amendments to the legislation have modified the effective date of implementation, revised from January 1, 2024, to March 1, 2024. While there was widespread support for the bills within the Finance Committee, some dissenting votes were cast. Representative Teresa Tanzi raised questions regarding worker protections and safeguards within the contract with the outside vendor for iGaming.

According to information shared at the meeting, the bill gives the Rhode Island Lottery the authority to enter into the contract and set the parameters on the terms, reports The Center Square. Barring a breach of contract, the agreement could last in the range of 20 years.

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