Rhode Island is a stroke of a pen away from becoming the seventh state to offer online casino after the House passed the bill to bring igaming to the state.
After the Senate passed SB948, an identical bill was circulated into the House, where the Representatives voted through the bill in a 57-11 vote. Now the bill will go to Gov. Daniel McKee’s desk, where he will choose whether or not to authorize online casino.
Under the terms of the bill, legalized online casino games in Rhode Island could launch by Jan 1, 2024, with the state lottery in charge of regulating the market.
Rhode Island’s online casino bill would give Bally’s the exclusive rights to operate in the state, via its Twin River and Twin River-Tiverton properties. Meanwhile, as its official vendor, IGT would also have access to Rhode Island’s gaming proposals.
The legislation requires that a live dealer must be in place and streamed via a simulcast, meaning that bets are technically placed in a casino location. This helps to make the bill constitutional and avoid a referendum.
Online table games would be available only to those over the age of 21 following an amendment in the Senate, whilst Bally’s would be mandated to provide funds for problem gambling education.
Despite ultimately passing through the House, there were detractors who were concerned over Bally’s proposed monopoly on the market, as well as player protection concerns.
Rep. Brandon Potter argued: “This is by far the most incredibly dangerous piece of legislation that I have seen since I’ve been here. It is completely unvetted, and I see no benefit other than enriching a large corporate partnership at the expense of devastating people all throughout our state, working-class people.”
Yet, the bill was passed without any amendments in the House, meaning it will now head straight for Gov. McKee. The Governor’s thoughts on gambling are currently unknown.
Should Gov. McKee sign the bill, it would signal a landmark moment in the online casino industry in the US as the state would become the seventh to legalize online casino.
Though a very small state, and a model that doesn’t offer any competition amongst operators, it does signal that the path to legalization is becoming more clear and will provide hope to Government Affairs offices across the industry.
Rhode Island will join New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, West Virginia, Connecticut, and Delaware in legalizing online casino.