Rhode Island Prepares for Legalized Single-Game Sports Betting

Posted By Grant Lucas on July 7, 2018 - Last Updated on July 6, 2018

Gear up, Ocean Staters. Regulated sports betting is coming your way.

Gov. Gina Raimondo signed an overarching budget bill that effectively legalized single-game sports wagering in Rhode Island. The industry could go live within three months.

As part of a $9.6 billion budget package that was passed on to Raimondo by state legislators, sports betting was largely supported by lawmakers in both chambers of the Rhode Island statehouse. As a result, the state joins New Jersey and Delaware as the first group of states outside of Nevada to roll out regulated wagering.

“It maintains the progress we have made in lowering taxes to improve our business climate while also investing in economic development,” Dominick J. Ruggerio, President of the Senate, said of the approved budget, “and it provides Rhode Island with the highest percentage of revenue in the nation for sports wagering.”

What to expect in RI

Let’s call it a soft launch for Rhode Island, more than anything.

Initially, sports betting within the state will be limited to two casinos – the Twin Rivers properties in Lincoln and Tiverton – and both will receive $100,000 for being hosts for legal sports wagering.

Overseen by the Rhode Island Lottery, sports betting will be treated very similar to how it is in Delaware. Rather than a traditional tax structure being in place, Rhode Island will work in concert with the casinos and split revenue generated by sports betting.

The state will collect 51 percent of revenue coming from wagers, while the vendor – IGT, which already works with the state lottery – will receive 32 percent. The remaining 17 percent of sports betting revenue will be channeled back to the casinos.

Also limited in Rhode Island will be mobile and online wagering. Limited in the sense that it will not exist. State law only allows the two land-based casinos to accept wagers. Rhode Island lawmakers have said that authorizing mobile betting would require approval by state voters.

How big will sports betting be for the state?

The budget signed by Raimondo estimates $23.5 million being generated from sports betting within the first year. If that does not seem high, it should, especially considering only two properties will be offering single-game wagering.

That projection translates to $900 million in wagers. For comparison, Nevada last year took in $5 billion in handle. To boot, Nevada has mobile wagering. Essentially, Raimondo’s budget – a record-high one, at that – sees Rhode Island, at about 1 percent the size of the Silver State and without an online presence, raking in about 18 percent of the action Nevada enjoyed in 2017.

That said, Rhode Island is still in elite company, as one of just three states outside of Nevada to legalize sports betting. With other states potentially on the way, such as Mississippi and West Virginia, it appears a trend is setting in to take advantage of a new world that includes single-game wagering.

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Grant Lucas

Grant Lucas is a longtime sports writer who has covered the high school, collegiate and professional levels. A graduate of Linfield College in McMinnville, Grant has covered games and written features and columns surrounding prep sports, Linfield and Oregon State athletics, the Portland Trail Blazers and golf.

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