Rhode Island on the Road to Betting on In-State College Teams

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Jared Bynum #4 of the Providence Friars reacts after making a shot against the Kentucky Wildcats on March 17, 2023. Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images/AFP.

Sports betting in Rhode Island has been on the market for a couple of years, but the options remain very limited. However, Little Rhody residents waiting for the day to bet on their home-state schools might not have to wait much longer.

The Senate passed a bill that would allow sports betting on in-state collegiate teams and referred it to the House Finance Committee. Sen. Dominick J. Ruggerio filed Senate Bill 3, which amends former sports betting legislation to redefine “collegiate sports or athletic event” and “sporting event”.

The new proposal (SB3) defines a “collegiate tournament” as a series of collegiate sports or athletic events involving four or more collegiate teams that compete as a single entity. Pre-season invitationals, league tournaments, and NCAA tournaments such as March Madness are all examples of tournaments.

Changing Rhode Island Sports Betting Landscape

The new language paves the way for Rhode Islanders to wager on college sporting events in Rhode Island or in which any Rhode Island collegiate team participates, regardless of location.

Ruggerio also sponsored the state’s original sports betting legislation. He told ABC 6 News that the reworked version of SB3 will add to the excitement that sports betting has generated in Rhode Island since it became law. “This legislation will enable Rhode Islanders to wager on their favorite college teams when participating in highly anticipated events like March Madness,” he said.

Sports betting was legalized in Rhode Island in 2018, following a Supreme Court decision in May of that year that struck down a federal ban on sports betting known as the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).

Rhode Island was quick to act on this ruling, and in June 2018, the state passed a law allowing sports betting at its two casinos, Twin River Casino and Tiverton Casino Hotel. The first legal sports bets were placed at the Twin River Casino in November of that year.

In 2019, the state expanded its sports betting offerings to include mobile sports betting, which allowed residents and visitors to place bets on sports through their mobile devices. This move significantly increased the popularity and accessibility of sports betting in Rhode Island.

Since then, sports betting has become a popular pastime in Rhode Island, with millions of dollars being wagered each year on various sporting events, including professional and college football, basketball, baseball, and more. However, the relationship between sports betting and college athletics has been the topic of much debate. 

What’s Next for Senate Bill 3 

When the House and Finance committees examine SB3, it will be discussed and possibly amended (once again). The measure has not been assigned a specific date in the Finance Committee, but according to the Rhode Island House schedule, any bills hoping to pass this session must leave the Committee by April 11

So, there’s not much time to decide. Lawmakers will have to act fast to keep the legislation moving, but Ruggerio says that money talks.

“I think it’s something that will raise revenue next year,” Ruggerio said. “I’m also looking at iGaming. I think that will be a substantial revenue generator down the line where people can stay at home and do everything similar to what they do on sports betting.”