RI Senate President Introduces Online Casino Legislation

Close up of the state flag of Rhode Island

Rhode Island may be the next state to legalize online casino gaming if a newly introduced measure gains enough backing. S 0948 entered the current legislative session on April 27, with Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio at the helm. The Democrat and Representative Gregory J. Costantino have submitted legislation to advance a proposal for iGaming in the state.

Online Casinos Could Benefit RI Residents

The new legislation is the first step in bringing online casino games to the state. According to officials, the casinos already provide important revenues to programs and investments in the state. As gaming companies continue to invest, the state must explore all avenues to remain competitive.

So far, online casino gaming is legal in Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Spearheading the effort to add Rhode Island to the list is Bally’s Corporation. The company wants to offer poker, blackjack, slots, and other online games in the state.

Bally’s already operates two retail casinos in the state and would like to boost operations with online gaming services. The company feels that online gaming is vital in remaining competitive and bringing much-needed revenues to Rhode Island.

To prove its point further, Bally’s commissioned a study to showcase how online casinos would impact the state. The study concluded that just over $93 million in gross gaming earnings would be generated from the first year of services. By the fifth year, that number would reach over $130 million.

Within five years, as much as $210 million in taxes could be paid. A common fear among proponents of online casino services is that commercial casinos will lose business. Bally’s anticipates that little to no switching will be seen from in-play gaming to the iGaming sphere.

Tough Opposition Against Online Casinos

Since the proposal was tabled, opposition has come from lawyer Joseph S. Larisa Jr. The attorney has already challenged the online sports betting industry in Rhode Island.

Larisa argues that the proposal is illegal until voters approve an expansion of gambling via a referendum. He says that voters in just over three dozen cities and towns would need to approve the measure, as it would expand gambling to every mobile device and computer screen in the state.

The legislation would take 50% from slot gaming and see it go into the state lottery fund and the remaining portions added to the general fund. A 35% cut would go to the authorized iGaming platform vendor and 15% to the authorized iGaming game vendor.

Gaming would be restricted to RI and geolocation technology used to determine a player’s location. If a player is located outside the state, they will not gain access to services.

Interactive Gaming Reciprocal Agreements

An interesting section of the new legislation includes ‘interactive gaming reciprocal agreements.’ This means that Rhode Island would collaborate with other states with interactive gaming and share player pools. Generally, this pertains to online poker sites.

The Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA) connects Nevada, New Jersey, Michigan, and Delaware poker sites in the United States. Brands like theWorld Series of Poker (WSOP) can offer online poker gaming in multiple states and share player pools. This has opened gamers up to options like competing in online WSOP events to gain entry to a live tournament.

The only way online poker gaming thrives in Rhode Island is with shared player pools. The state has a small population and would be unable to generate enough traffic to host cash games and tournaments.

The provisions in the bills for online casino gaming make shared player pools a reality. It would allow the state to join the MSIGA and offer services. Currently, Bally’s is the only operator in Rhode Island that has experience with iGaming. They are pushing both S 0948 and H 6348 to offer services in the state. The brand would have a big advantage if online casino and poker gaming legislation were enacted.

Posted in: iGaming Regulatory & Industry Online Casino