Rhode Island Casinos Go Dark As Online Sports Betting Platform Keeps Light On

Fortunately, the state recently rescinded its in-person requirement for online sports betting registration
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The state of Rhode Island saw its two casinos close Monday due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The two properties — the Twin River Casino Hotel in Lincoln and the Tiverton Casino Hotel in Tiverton — join Rivers Casino Philadelphia as the only casinos in the Northeastern region currently closed completely, according to tracking from the American Gaming Association. There are 112 casinos (both commercial and tribal) nationwide that are currently shuttered, with 884 remaining open as of Monday.

Both Rhode Island casinos, along with every property in the country, closed earlier this year during the first major wave of the virus. More temporary closings could come in the following weeks.

The Ocean State casinos closed alongside gyms, movie theaters, and bowling alleys.

The earliest they can reopen is Dec. 13.

“This will not be easy, but I am pleading with you to take it seriously,” Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo said in a statement about closing entertainment venues. “Choosing to gather with those outside your household will have ripple effects that will increase the strain on our hospitals and put lives at risk. Please, put health and safety first, and stay home for the next two weeks as much as possible.”

Especially tough time for Rhode Island casinos

Through September, the two Rhode Island casinos generated $248.7 million in gaming revenue, down more than 51% compared to the first nine months of 2019, according to tracking from UNLV’s Center for Gaming Research. Commercial casino gaming revenue nationwide fell about 36% through September, so Rhode Island’s casino industry took COVID-19 on the chin flusher than many other casino states.

Rhode Island has been buoyed by online sports betting to an extent.

The state debuted retail sports betting in 2018, with online/mobile gambling launching in the fall of last year. Since sports betting began in November 2018, the state has seen $423.6 million in handle, generating nearly $34.1 million in revenue for the operators. It’s a relatively small sum. New Jersey handled nearly double that amount in October 2020 alone.

Sports bettors in Rhode Island haven’t been making as much use of their mobile option as bettors elsewhere. One reason is because until late July, you had to visit a casino in person to register for an online sportsbook. That requirement has been rescinded, which should help the state’s gambling platform weather the winter surge of the coronavirus.

In October, 44.4% of the total handle of $34.7 million came via the internet. In New Jersey and Pennsylvania last month, that figure was about 90%. It’s worth noting that both the Garden State and the Keystone State have online casino gambling as well, which facilitates more sports betting being conducted online.

The Rhode Island sports betting market isn’t an open one. The Sportsbook Rhode Island mobile app and website is powered by IGT and William Hill. The likes of DraftKings, FanDuel, and other top brands are unable to access the market, much to the chagrin of many bettors.

Fortunately for the Rhode Island casinos, the sports world isn’t shutting down right now like it did during the spring, so the books won’t see a repeat performance of taking only $4.1 million in wagers combined between April, May, and June.

Photo by Matvii Mosiahin / Shutterstock.com

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