Perhaps the only surprising aspect of the Rhode Island online casino bill introduced on April 27 is that it took so long. That’s because Bally’s Corporation announced on Feb. 15 that it was ready to offer iGaming. So SB948 calls for a launch date of Jan. 1, 2024.
It’s still possible for the measure to make its way through the Rhode Island General Assembly, which doesn’t adjourn until June 30.
Coincidentally, SB948 replaces the New Hampshire online casino bill that seemed to have the best chance of becoming law in 2023. The Granite State’s proposed legislation died in committee yesterday.
Another iGaming bill was just introduced in Maine on April 25, but has little chance of passing.
Rhode Island Online Casino Bill Details
Because Rhode Island online gambling providers enjoy monopoly status in the 1.1 million resident state, their tax rates are high.
The iGaming bill calls for a 50% tax rate on online slots and 18% on table games.
That’s lower than the 51% tax rate on sports betting. Sportsbook Rhode Island began accepting retail wagers in 2018 and online bets in September 2019. Rhode Island online casino games would be operated by the Rhode Island Lottery, like the sportsbook.
While the words “monopoly” and “providers” plural may seem like a contradiction, here it’s because it’s a joint venture that holds the monopoly. Providence-headquartered Bally’s and London-based International Game Technology (IGT) created a Delaware company that SB948 references.
So the “iGaming platform vendor” – that’s IGT – keeps 35% of slots and table game revenue. Bally’s, or the “iGaming game vendor,” can retain 15% of online slot revenue and 47% of the revenue from table games.
The bill doesn’t spell out the gambling age, but sports bettors in Rhode Island must be 18 or older.
Similarly, the measure doesn’t mention live dealer games.
As the bill amending the Video Lottery Games, Table Games, and Sports Wagering laws progresses through the Senate, more detail may come. For now, it sits in the Senate Special Legislation and Veterans Affairs Committee.
In the press release Bally’s posted on Feb. 15 about adding iGaming, the company proposed much of what’s in SB948 – including the launch date.
For instance, the Bally’s announcement says:
68.7% of iGaming play would be from slots, 28.8% from table games, and .5% from poker.
State Sen. Dominick J. Ruggerio, D-North Providence, is the bill’s primary sponsor. The Senate president claimed the Feb. 15 announcement from Bally’s about providing iGaming was his idea.
He emphasized that the proposal from Bally’s will be thoroughly reviewed, including the prediction that legalizing iGaming would result in $93.3 million of gross gaming revenue (GGR) in 2024. Bonus has previously expressed doubts about that and other revenue predictions from Bally’s.
Ruggerio said in today’s announcement:
This legislation is a first step in the public review process around potential iGaming in Rhode Island.