Rhode Island Senate Approves Online Casino Bill

June 9, 2023
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The Rhode Island Senate approved legislation to permit online casino gaming Thursday, a key step in its effort to be the first state to legalize online casinos in 2023.

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The Rhode Island Senate approved legislation to permit online casino gaming Thursday (June 8), a key step in its effort to be the first state to legalize online casinos in 2023.

The Senate voted 30-4 to pass Senate Bill 948, a bill that would permit a joint venture of Bally’s and IGT to offer online casino gaming. The two companies combine to operate the state’s two land-based Twin River casinos.

Online slot games and live dealer table games are permitted under the legislation, but digital table games would not be permitted due to a belief among some legislators and Senate attorneys that without live dealers at the facilities, the games would be unconstitutional.

The bill was introduced by Senate President Dominick Ruggerio after being requested by Bally’s.

“This legislation provides an added convenience to Rhode Islanders who would like to play the existing table games offered at Twin River via their mobile devices,” Ruggerio said in a statement following the bill’s passage.

“It helps ensure the continued strength of the state facilities in the competitive regional gaming market, and in so doing protects an important revenue stream that provides funding for vital state programs and investments.”

Under the proposal, the state would receive a 61 percent share of online slot revenues and a 15.5 percent share of table game revenue.

The bill received some criticism on the floor as an overreach of gambling expansion and a “massive corporate giveaway” to create a monopoly market, according to Senator Samuel Bell.

“I think when it comes to gambling legislation, we have gotten away from the moral dimension,” Bell said. “Gambling also needs to be legal, but what we don't have to do is squeeze every last drop of profit out of this addictive product, knowing the serious damage it is going to cause to families in our state.”

The Rhode Island Senate is only the second legislative body to approve iGaming legislation in 2023, joining the New Hampshire Senate in what has been a slow year for online gaming expansion outside sports betting.

However, the New Hampshire legislation quickly died in the state’s House, whereas in Rhode Island the bill has support from the House speaker, and could benefit from how narrow the bill truly is, with only one online provider being permitted.

“This is a focused version of iGaming that is ready for passage and implementation,” Ruggerio said. “This iGaming legislation is constitutional, is geared to mature users, contains education provisions for problem gamblers, and preserves the revenue allocation percentages as they are currently in place.”

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