Rhode Island Online Casino Bill Advances To Senate Floor

June 7, 2023
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A Rhode Island Senate Committee advanced iGaming legislation Tuesday, but with a unique wrinkle forced by the state’s constitution.

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A Rhode Island Senate Committee advanced iGaming legislation Tuesday (June 6), but with a unique wrinkle forced by the state’s constitution.

The Senate Special Legislation and Veterans Affairs Committee voted unanimously to recommend passage of Senate Bill 948, a bill that would permit a joint venture of Bally’s Corporation and IGT, which operate the state’s two Twin River-branded casinos, to offer online gaming across Rhode Island.

The bill would allow online slot games and online table games, but the original bill, which was introduced in April, was amended Tuesday to remove digital table games from the legislation, instead requiring all online table games to be live-dealer offerings.

Steven Hayes, chief legal counsel for Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, a Democrat and the bill’s sponsor, said the change was one of several brought about by concerns expressed by members of the committee, including whether such a measure could be passed without a constitutional amendment and voter approval.

“One of the first things we addressed was the constitutionality, which required online table games to have a live dealer,” Hayes said. “This is a different means of accessing a game that’s existing at the facility itself.”

“We eliminated those games that did not have a live dealer, and that addressed the constitutionality portion of it.”

The Rhode Island Lottery, which would be the regulator under the proposed legislation, was among those who had voiced concerns about the constitutionality of the bill, as well as concerns over potential lottery cannibalization and the state’s share of revenue.

The amended bill also addressed concerns over revenue sharing, raising the state’s take from 50 percent to 61 percent of online slot revenue, but decreasing the share of table game revenue from 18 percent to 15.5 percent.

In addition, the committee changed the required minimum age of players from 18 to 21 years of age.

“I know a lot of people were concerned about young people 18 to 21 using this particular method to wager,” Ruggerio said. “I think this situation addresses that so no one can play iGaming younger than 21.”

Although a small monopoly-controlled market may not have been at the top of the state-by-state wishlist for advocates of online casino legislation, Rhode Island’s bill may be the industry’s last hope for online casino legislation in 2023, with other state efforts such as those in New Hampshire and Illinois falling by the wayside in recent weeks.

The bill could be considered on the Senate floor as early as Thursday (June 8).

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