Rhode Island Legislators Take the Lead in 2023 by Approving iGaming Bill

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Guests play video poker with every other machine at a casino. Ethan Miller/Getty Images/AFP.

In addition to Rhode Island sports betting, now gambling enthusiasts could enjoy iGaming, as on the last day of the legislative session, Little Rhody lawmakers passed an online gaming bill that could see virtual slots and table games on the gaming menu by March of next year.

Super Seven

Many industry insiders were doubtful the iGaming bill in Rhode Island would pass during this legislative session but here we are. The smallest state in the union just became only the seventh in the nation to pass an online casino betting bill. Only New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Michigan, Delaware, and Connecticut have either passed or launched iGaming in their state.

The House version of the online gambling bill, H6348, passed by a 57-11 margin with eight abstentions while the Senate version, S0948, passed by a 34-4 margin with two abstentions. Both bills had wide support in both chambers and were both pushed heavily by Rhode Island-based gaming giant, Bally’s.

Bally’s Monopoly Continues

Speaking of Bally’s, many legislators wanted their monopoly on gambling in the state to end by arguing that a different company should provide iGaming. Bally’s already has the state’s only two commercial casinos, Tiverton and Twin River Lincoln, and the iGaming platforms will be tethered to both gambling houses.

Bally’s Senior Vice President Craig Eaton, speaking at a Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce legislative forum, announced the company’s iGaming plans back in February. “We see this as a vital step to secure our competitive advantage and ensure critical revenue to the state.

“Despite area competition, which is growing to our north and to our southwest in Connecticut, we know we have to keep improving our products and experiences. We can’t sit still, and we need to meet our customers where they are.”

And now that those plans have manifested into law with the stroke of the governor’s pen, the deal will see the state lottery regulating the new revenue stream into which Bally’s would pay 61% of slot revenues to the state and 15.5% of the table game profits.

A live dealer is required and unlike the sports betting bill where customers must be 18 or over, the iGaming bill mandates a minimum age of 21 to wager on online casino games and digital slots. The online table games allowed under this bill will include baccarat, poker, blackjack, big six, craps, Pai Gow poker, and roulette.

Not Everyone’s a Fan

Rep. Teresa Tanzi has spoken against the bill on multiple occasions insisting the bill will victimize some people as it would make gambling far more accessible than it is right now.

“Your wife or husband could be sitting next to you on the couch, and your husband or wife could be gambling away your house, your savings, your credit,” said Tanzi, who also voted against the bill in committee.

Tanzi also said, “We know cell phones are addictive and gambling is addictive. It’s two corrosive elements together, and we don’t know what those two things together will exponentially produce. I just don’t see that there’s adequate caution moving forward.”

However, others like Rep. Anastasia Williams believe that if Rhode Island doesn’t take the money, neighboring states will be happy to do so and technology isn’t going away, “Change is here to stay,” she said.