The New England region is now home to two brick-and-mortar sportsbooks, thanks to the opening of Rhode Island’s second facility at Twin River Casino’s Tiverton location.
The 33,600-square-foot casino opened in September, so it didn’t have to wait long for a sportsbook. Sports betting is on the third floor of the property with the racebook.
The sportsbook officially launched on Monday at 3 p.m. local time, with some bettors already in line.
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The casino operator opened a sportsbook at its Lincoln casino, located about 30 miles away from Tiverton, on November 26. The historic Lincoln launch drew considerably more fanfare.
Rhode Island is the only state in New England with sports betting, which positions it to capitalize on the massive fan bases for regional sports teams. It’s one of just eight states nationwide with the activity. The closest legal sportsbooks to Rhode Island’s are located in New Jersey.
New York and Connecticut are among the frontrunners for authorizing sports betting in 2019, so Rhode Island’s New England monopoly might be relatively short-lived. Massachusetts is also considering it.
Online/mobile in the works
The Rhode Island Lottery, which controls the state’s sports betting industry, is already online and accessible through an app. Rhode Island gets 51% of the sports betting revenue, creating a strong incentive for the Lottery to run internet-based sports wagering as well.
Democratic State Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, who was among those to place the first wagers in the state at the Lincoln casino, is crafting a measure to allow Rhode Island to have online sports wagering. According to the Associated Press, Ruggerio’s bill is expected to be filed at the start of the session in January.
Rhode Island sports betting is powered by Las Vegas-based IGT and the British bookmaker (now in Nevada and New Jersey as well) William Hill, which sets the lines. Those two firms share 32% of the sports betting revenue, while Twin River takes home the remaining 17%.
The state considered launching online at the same time as on-site sports wagering, but the measure that was ultimately successful, H 8350, was a cautious approach.
Rep. Gregg Amore, a Democrat, introduced legislation for online wagering in June, so there is support for online in both legislative chambers. Amore’s bill never made it out of the House Finance Committee.
Despite the lack of movement on Amore’s bill, the chances are good that Rhode Island legalizes online sports betting in 2019, with a likely launch in the second half of the year.
Rhode Island was looking to launch sports betting this year much earlier in the ongoing NFL season. Perhaps it will correct the mistake by having online/mobile ready in time for the 2019-’20 season.
Benefits of the internet
Under online/mobile adoption, Rhode Island could see $1.1 billion in annual wagers and about $80 million in revenue, according to a 2017 Oxford Economics study. Not too shabby for one of the smallest states in terms of adult population.
Those projections were slashed to about $650 million in handle and $40 million in revenue, under an outlook of strictly on-site wagering. The study didn’t consider remote or on-site registration for internet-based accounts.
The unsuccessful online sports betting proposal didn’t include a requirement for on-site registration.
Rhode Island’s casino gambling market was worth $624.8 million last year, up nearly 1% year-over-year. However, slot revenue was worrisome. The machines took in $481 million, down 0.6% year-over-year.
State-of-the-art sports betting will have a significant impact on the state’s lottery-operated casino industry.
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