On Thursday, a casino bill seeking to allow Bally’s Twin River Casino in Lincoln to simulcast table games and slots to players’ desktop and mobile devices passed the Rhode Island Senate on a 30-4 vote and now heads to the House. Under the provisions of the revised version of the legislative measure, Rhode Islanders must be at least 21 years old to be able to participate in online gambling activities. The amended bill also addresses the Rhode Island Lottery’s concerns regarding the sharing of revenues generated from gambling. If the measure gets the nod in the House, it will become effective as of January 1, 2024.
Sponsored by President of the Senate Dominick Ruggerio, the bill was introduced at the request of Bally’s Corporation. If the bill becomes law, it will allow Bally’s Twin River Casino in Lincoln to conduct online casino games, provided it uses video lottery terminals (VLTs) manufactured by Rhode Island’s lottery operator International Game Technology (IGT). Under Rhode Island’s law, brick-and-mortar casinos are allowed to offer VLTs only, while Las Vegas-style slots are prohibited.
Ruggerio explained that the casino bill aims to keep Rhode Island competitive and boost state coffers. In a statement, he explained that the tax revenue generated from online gambling could be used to fund significant state programs. According to a study commissioned by Bally’s Corp., online gambling could generate $210 in tax revenue over the first five years.
A state-commissioned report by Christiansen Capital Advisors LLC forecast that the state could generate up to $160 million in tax revenues from online gambling operations over the first five-year period. If the income is distributed equally over the first five years, the extra $32 million in revenue would account for approximately 8% of the total $388 million transferred to the state by the Rhode Island Lottery in fiscal 2022.
What Amendments Have Been Introduced to the Legislation?
Several amendments were introduced to the bill approved by the majority of the House yesterday. The amendments seek to address revenue-sharing concerns. Not long ago, Mark Furcolo, state lottery director, stated that the original version of the bill violated the state constitution as voters did not give their consent to online gambling in 2012 and 2016 when they authorized the establishment of gambling venues in Twin River and Tiverton.
Hence, the bill was revised, and now it seeks to allow Bally’s Twin River Casino in Lincoln to simulcast table games and slots to players’ desktop and mobile devices. Under the amended version of the bill, profits from slots will be taxed at 61% instead of 50%. The tax on profits generated from table games was lowered from 18% to 15.5%.
Under the new version of the bill, $1.3 million will be set aside to offset potential revenue losses that might occur due to iGaming. Additionally, the bill mandates a study to better understand how online gambling would impact Rhode Island’s lottery games.
Moreover, the legislation also raises the minimum age at which Rhode Islanders can gamble online from 18 to 21. The move aims to appease concerns over the increased risks of problem gambling. The legislation also stipulates that only players physically located in Rhode Island will be allowed to gamble online.