Rhode Island is a signature away from becoming an iGaming state.
The state House on Thursday afternoon passed House Bill 6348 by a 57-11 vote, but only after a lengthy debate on the floor during the final day of the General Assembly’s 2023 session. The House also voted 56-11 on the Senate version of the legislation, Senate Bill 948
Should Gov. Dan McKee sign the bill into law, Rhode Island will become the seventh state to allow online casino gambling. It would also join Delaware as the second state to allow only one iGaming operator. U.S. mobile sports betting is available in nearly 30 states.
The state also becomes the first to pass an iGaming law this year.
Under the legislation, Bally’s Corp., which operates the state’s two casinos, would partner with IGT to develop a Rhode Island iGaming platform. The online app would offer slot machines and table games, with the table games featuring a live dealer.
The iGaming bill differs slightly from other gaming laws in Rhode Island because only adults 21 and older can play on the app. Adults 18 and older can bet in person at the casinos and on the Rhode Island sports betting app.
Concerns About Addiction, Monopoly Raised
Critics, though few, raised several concerns about the measure that first came up just a couple months ago.
“I think this is being rushed… I don’t think we’ve had enough time to vet this specific issue in question because this is a significant piece of legislation that we are considering,” state Rep. David Morales said.
Their chief concerns were about the addictive nature of online gaming, and they also opposed giving Bally’s a monopoly in the state.
“I know other states that do this, they have a multitude of options for their folks,” state Rep. Teresa Tanzi said. “So, if we really wanted to just bring sports or iGaming to the residents of Rhode Island because we thought it was such a great idea and it had nothing to do with money, that we would just open this up and have a multitude of different options for our citizens to choose from. But we haven’t. We chose one. We chose Bally’s without a process or bidding or any of that.”
The House Finance Committee approved an amendment to the Senate bill earlier this week, pushing the effective date from Jan. 1 to March 1 of next year. The Senate concurred with the change shortly after the House floor votes Thursday.
With the legislature now adjourned for the year, McKee now has 10 days to decide whether to veto the bill or sign it into law. The bill can still become law without his signature after the 10 days pass.
Rhode Island would receive 61% of the revenue from online slot machines and 15.5% of the table game win. Lincoln and Tiverton, the two Rhode Island communities where Bally’s casinos are located, would split 1.45% of the slot revenue and 1% of the table revenue. Lincoln would get 77% of the towns’ portion on slots and 80% of the table revenue.
Along with New Hamspshire and New York, Rhode Island features the nation’s highest tax rate on legal sports betting apps at 51%.