atrons of Twin River Casino should be able to make sports bets for the first time close to Thanksgiving, the Valley Breeze reports. Phase two will include a complete sports lounge.
Casino officials say they expected to open around the holiday, though the specific opening date was not announced as of press time.
Phase I, the area slated to open this week, includes a set of odds boards built out in the 1940s portion of the facility as part of the original racing track. Patrons will be able to bet on both sports games and horses in the Phase I area.
Phase 2 of the sports betting rollout will be “more robust,” according to Twin River spokeswoman Patti Doyle, who said the casino’s phased approach is similar to other areas of the country where sports gambling has been legalized.
Rhode Island’s state legislature approved sports betting in June of this year.
A 3,600-square-foot sports lounge with hundreds of television screens and comfy chairs is under construction behind the Wicked Good Bar and Grill. Expected to open mid-December, the lounge was used as rentable banquet space prior to construction.
“Phase 2 will be more of a social environment, separate from the activities on the main floor,” said Mike Barlow, vice president of operations for Twin River Management Group Inc. “We want to offer a tailgate party without having to go outside and tailgate.”
Twin River General Manager Craig Sculos said, “Being first in the market is important. It allows us to raise the flag and expand what our casino offerings are. Our goal is to bring people into the property that have never been here before.”
Sculos called sports betting a continued investment and a stepping-stone for the casino to cater to a new demographic and expand its offerings.
Sports betting was originally expected to be available to casino patrons by October 1. Addressing the weeks-long delay in opening, Sculos said the casino “needed to open when it’s reasonable, safe and smart to do so.”
“We’re shooting for as close to Thanksgiving as we can get,” he said.
The delay has cost the state, with the Revenue Estimating Conference reducing its sports betting revenue estimate from $23.5 million to $11.5 million. Rhode Island Department of Revenue spokesman Paul Grimaldi said the delay was due to complex negotiations this summer/fall between Twin River, vendor IGT/William Hill, and the Rhode Island Lottery, “on the various aspects of the sports book operation.”
Grimaldi said the specific date for sports betting to become available “is dependent on the completion of testing of the IGT/William Hill sports betting software,” which was released to a third-party testing vendor on Nov. 5. The sports book will start taking bets once the software is certified, according to Grimaldi.
“People have been asking when we’re opening. The audience is ready, that’s for sure,” Barlow said.