This iGaming legislation is constitutional, is geared to mature users, contains education provisions for problem gamblers, & preserves the revenue allocation percentages as they are currently in place. A bill that would make Rhode Island the seventh state in the US with online casino gaming passed the state Senate on Thursday and has since been sent to the House.
That panel was asked to consider identical legislation in the form of HB 6348 but held the bill for further study at its last meeting on May 23. It’s not clear when the House Finance Committee will meet next to take up SB 948.
Senate President Dominick Ruggerio (D-North Providence) introduced SB 948 in the Senate on April 28. That same day, Rep. Gregory Constantino (D-Lincoln) did the same with HB 6348 in the House. SB 948 cleared the Senate Special Legislation and Veterans Affairs Committee on June 6.
“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 Thursday, referring to Twin River Lincoln Casino Resort, a land-based casino owned and operated by Bally’s Corporation.
“It helps ensure the continued strength of the state facilities in the competitive regional gaming market, and in doing so protects an important revenue stream that provides funding for vital state programs and investments.”
Bally’s also owns and operates the Tiverton Casino & Hotel.
Last February, executives with Bally’s proposed having the Providence-based company assist lawmakers with crafting legislation that would bring online casinos to Rhode Island.
Live Dealer Added to Bill
This is a focused version of iGaming that is ready for passage and implementation. The Senate tacked on a few amendments to the bill, including requiring a live dealer to be in place for any online casino offering.
That verbiage is important because it would treat online wagers like those placed at a land-based facility. It would also help the state avoid having to hold a referendum on expanding iGaming. Ruggerio noted that a similar strategy had been adopted by New Jersey, where wagers are required to be tethered to a land-based casino in Atlantic City.
Another amendment called for restricting online table games to players aged 21 and older. According to Ruggerio’s office, “Bally’s has also agreed to provide additional resources to educate young people and problem gambling.” The lawmaker’s office did not elaborate on Bally’s plans.
“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.”
Under SB 948, online casino gaming and poker would launch in Rhode Island on January 1, 2024. A tax rate of 50% would be levied on slots and 18% on table games. IGT Global Solutions Corporation would receive 35% of gaming revenue from slots and table games, while Bally’s would get 15% from slots and 47% from table games. The Rhode Island Lottery would serve as the regulator.
The Rhode Island General Assembly adjourns on June 30. Lawmakers have until that date to give SB 948 their final approval, after which it would be sent to Democratic Governor Daniel McKee for his signature. McKee is believed to support the legislation.