hode Island launched mobile sports betting at one casino and plans to add it to a second casino next week. The mobile application launched Wednesday at Twin River Casino in Lincoln, according to the state revenue department. The department said Thursday there were no major issues, although some gamblers found the casino application slow to load.
Paul Grimaldi, spokesman for the revenue department, described it as a “soft launch,” and he said that from the state’s perspective, things went well. “This is a milestone for us,” he said Thursday, as reported by the Associated Press. “We promised to get this done by the start of the NFL season and we’ve accomplished that.”
Several hundred people signed up, Grimaldi said, and he’d “bet” that a lot of gamblers will create accounts on Sunday before the New England Patriots take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in the regular-season opener Sunday night.
Gamblers have to activate their mobile accounts in person in Lincoln with a photo ID so the casino can verify they’re at least 18 years old and that they and aren’t banned from the property for a past violation. Then, they can place wagers from anywhere in Rhode Island.
The state’s goal is to launch mobile betting next week at the other Rhode Island casino offering sports betting, Twin River’s Tiverton Casino Hotel, after testing is complete. The casino is in Tiverton, Rhode Island, near the Massachusetts border.
The app is being tested this week near the Massachusetts and Connecticut borders to ensure bets can’t be placed across states lines, as required by law, and that the service is available from as many locations within the state as possible, Grimaldi said. Rhode Island is the only New England state currently offering sports betting.
“As people use their accounts over time in the weeks or month, they are going to be able to market to you and give you other options, other reasons to come to Lincoln or Tiverton to see a show or have dinner or to play another game,” Grimaldi said.
Since the late November launch of sports betting, gamblers have wagered nearly $136 million in Rhode Island and about $128 million was paid out on winning bets, according to the state lottery. The state gets 51% of the $7.7 million profit after expenses are subtracted.
However, there is a pending legal challenge against Rhode Island sports betting. Republican activist Daniel Harrop sued over sports betting in May, arguing that the state should have sought voter approval before legalizing and launching sports betting. Lawyers for the state lottery and Twin River argue that Harrop isn’t hurt by sports betting and lacks standing to sue. The town of Tiverton requested a quick ruling last week, and the case’s next hearing is set for September 11.
“It’s the integrity issue. Colleges around the country are really concerned about players who aren’t making any money,” said Grimaldi, according to WPRI. “Will they be tempted to throw a game. So the best way for us to avoid that is to not allow that kind of betting in Rhode Island.”
Sports betting — both mobile and in-person — is expected to bring in $22.7 million for the state during the current 2019-20 fiscal year, according to the most recent official revenue estimates.
Legal bets on the game can be placed in 13 U.S. states: Arkansas, Delaware, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia. This time last year, it was only legal in five states.
Sports betting has been approved through laws or regulations but is not yet running in five additional states: Illinois, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Tennessee, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Colorado voters will decide in a November ballot question whether to allow sports betting there.