Rhode Island House lawmakers overwhelmingly pass a mobile betting bill, the piece heads to Gov. Raimondo’s desk
The Rhode Island House of Representatives passed Tuesday a House-sponsored bill and its Senate twin that call for the authorization of mobile sports betting. It is now up to Governor Gina Raimondo to decide whether digital wagering services should be rolled out on the territory of her state.
Gov. Raimondo has included tax revenue from sports betting in her budget for the upcoming financial year, so she is not likely to veto the mobile wagering measure.
The mobile betting bill passed the full House floor with overwhelming support from legislators and only eight negative votes. The legislative piece will allow Twin River Management Group, the operator of the state’s two casinos, to roll out mobile wagering services.
Rhode Island’s two casinos – Twin River Tiverton and Twin River Lincoln – launched in-person sports betting late last year, making the state the first one in the New England region to offer legal wagering services.
According to initial projections, Rhode Island’s mobile betting market could generate up to $8 million in tax revenue for the state this year.
A group of House Representatives introduced an amendment to the bill that asked for an opinion from the state Supreme Court whether the authorization of mobile betting represented gambling expansion. If the practice was deemed a form of gambling expansion, it would require voters’ approval in a statewide referendum. The proposed amendment was voted down yesterday paving the way for a speedier roll-out of digital betting in Rhode Island.
House Majority Leader Joe Shekarchi said yesterday that the bill does not aim to expand gambling, but to provide a new way of placing bets to keep up with technology.
Lawmakers Raise Important Concerns
Despite the overwhelming support at the final vote, a number of lawmakers voiced concerns of different nature in relation to the authorization of mobile betting in the state. According to Rep. Theresa Tanzi, betting on physical premises is one thing, but legalizing mobile wagering is “a whole new animal being unleashed.”
Other lawmakers pointed out that the bill practically creates a monopoly in the provision of mobile betting, as it only authorizes Twin River Management Group and its two properties to operate digital wagering.
A provision in the bill requiring gambling customers to register at one of Rhode Island’s two casinos in order to be able to place bets via their smartphones was also protested by some legislators. According to Sen. Sam Bell, the requirement will affect customer channelization, that is, bettors could keep wagering on unregulated websites.
It is yet to be determined when mobile betting will be launched in Rhode Island. As mentioned above, Gov. Raimondo needs to sign the legislation before it takes effect as a law.
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