Surprise! Rhode Island Could Be Next State For Online Casino

Executives with the Providence-based operator said they want lawmakers and the governor to support legislation in 2023 that calls for launching online casino gaming in the state.
Surprise! Rhode Island Could Be Next State For Online Casino
February 23, 2023

Could Rhode Island — a state that ranks 45th by population and has just two land-based casinos within its borders — become the seventh US state with legal online casino gaming?

Yes, it could, if Bally’s Corporation has anything to say about it.

A lawmaker in the Ocean State and two executives from the Providence-based company confirmed that the operator would take part in drafting legislation to launch real money online casino gaming and poker in the state.

Bally’s added that it planned to use its iGaming expertise to help lawmakers write an iGaming expansion bill and “seek legislative and executive branch approval” during the General Assembly’s current session.

“We intend to model this after the legislation used to establish online sports betting in Rhode Island, effectively giving the state complete regulatory control and the ability to ensure the integrity of the program while maximizing revenue for the state,” said Elizabeth Suever, Vice President for Government Relations at Bally’s.

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Bally’s Holds Casino Monopoly

Bally’s owns and operates two casinos in Rhode Island — Twin River Lincoln Casino Resort and Bally’s Tiverton Casino & Hotel — giving it a monopoly on land-based casino gaming. It has provided online sports betting through its SportsBook Rhode Island website, since September 2019.

Should legislation to expand iGaming in Rhode Island become successful, Bally’s is sure to hold a monopoly in the online casino vertical as well.

Online sports betting in Rhode Island has proven to be a moneymaker for Bally’s. According to data from the Rhode Island Lottery, gross gaming revenue totaled $3.8 million for the last ten months of the fiscal year (FY) 2020.

The vertical soared to $18.3 million in FY 2021 and then grew an additional 20.5% to reach $22.1 million in FY 2022. Through the first six months of FY 2023, online sports betting has grossed $17.3 million, putting it on pace to reach $34.5 million by the end of the fiscal year.

No Tax Rate Has Been Suggested Yet

Although Bally’s didn’t specify a tax rate for online casino gaming and poker, it appears to be considering a 51% rate on slots and 18% on table games. The current tax rate for online sports betting is 51%.

An online casino tax rate of 51% is included in projections by Spectrum Gaming Group that Rhode Island would generate $210 million in tax revenue during the five years following legalization.

Spectrum called the rates “higher than the industry average.” To arrive at the $210 million figure, the firm also assumed that 68.7% of iGaming revenue would come from slots and 28.8% from table games — leaving one-half of a percentage point for online poker.

Suever referred to the Spectrum study, which the company commissioned, during a legislative leadership luncheon hosted earlier this month by the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce.

According to a report by The Providence Journal, Bally’s Executive Vice President Craig Eaton also attended the luncheon, telling attendees that the company considers expanded iGaming in Rhode Island “a vital step to secure our competitive advantage and ensure critical revenue to the state.

“Despite area competition, which is growing to our north [in Massachusetts] and to our southwest in Connecticut, we know we have to keep improving our products and experiences. We can’t sit still, and need to meet our customers where they are.”

Senate President Dominick Ruggerio (D-North Providence) told the newspaper that he had asked Bally’s to help with the legislation. “I know it’s going to be a revenue generator. It will be convenient for people. They don’t have to go up [to the casino]. They can stay at home.”

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Time is Running Out for Bill

Whether legislation originates from Bally’s, Ruggerio’s colleagues in the Rhode Island General Assembly, or a combination of the two, supporters of expanded iGaming in the Ocean State have little time if they hope to get a bill passed during the 2023 legislative session.

The last day for public legislation to be introduced in the state House of Representatives was extended recently to February 28. A similar deadline for introducing public legislation in the Senate has not been set yet.

April 11 is the deadline for initial House legislation to receive a hearing from a House committee. Meanwhile, the Senate has yet to set a deadline for Senate committees to consider bills that originated in the Senate.

If you or someone you know has a gambling problem and wants help, call the Virginia Council on Problem Gambling (VACPG) helpline at 1-888-532-3500

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