Rhode Island is the smallest state in the US by total area, bordering Massachusetts to the north and east, Connecticut to the west, and the Atlantic Ocean to the south. Despite its modest size (3,144 km2), Little Rhode is home to a decent-sized gaming market whose economic impact is estimated at $1.05 billion.
The tiny state currently has two commercial casinos operated by Bally’s Corporation, Tiverton Casino Hotel and Twin River Casino Hotel. Both venues are legally permitted to offer table games and slot machines, also known as video lottery terminals (VLTs). Pari-mutuel wagering on horse races, bingo, lotteries, and pull-tabs are also legal in the Ocean State.
In 2018, Rhode Island became the eighth state to legalize sports wagering, which was originally limited to retail locations at the two commercial casinos. The following year lawmakers amended the existing legislation to add remote betting via mobile devices. Rhode Island is also an early adopter of daily fantasy sports as it declared them legal in 2016.
Lawmakers mulled over authorizing online lottery sales in the past but nothing came out of those discussions. Remote casino-style gaming goes unregulated at the moment, but the recent sports betting expansion has rekindled the hopes of online casino fans in Rhode Island.
Landbased Gambling Laws in Rhode Island
Rhode Island statutes allow for various forms of gambling. Pari-mutuel betting on thoroughbred horse races became legal in 1934 when state residents approved it with a referendum vote. Rhode Island’s now-defunct Narragansett Park welcomed many legendary thoroughbred horses on its track, including champions like War Admiral, Seabiscuit, and Whirlaway.
Gambling Licenses in Rhode Island
Two commercial casinos call the Ocean State their home, Bally’s Twin River and Bally’s Tiverton Casino. Both service Rhode Islanders legally with permits granted by the Division of Commercial Licenses, Racing and Athletics within the State Department of Business Regulation.
Gambling Taxes in Rhode Island
The taxes imposed on licensed slot machines in Rhode Island are some of the heaviest in the United States. The rates are based on a sliding scale and depend on the total slot revenue generated by the licensed operators.
Responsible Gambling Measures
Rhode Island law requires the two licensed commercial casinos in Lincoln and Tiverton to aggregately allocate a minimum of $200,000 of their revenue to various responsible gambling programs across the state. Under §42-61-2-14 of the Rhode Island Code, the two casinos must provide gambling awareness training to their employees. Problem gamblers have the option to exclude themselves voluntarily from sports betting and gaming.
Players can opt to self-exclude permanently or temporarily for one or five years. Those looking to restrict themselves from gambling at the licensed properties must submit their applications in-person. Mailing the applications is not an option. Family members cannot exclude problem gamblers forcefully. For the exclusion period’s duration, gamblers are unable to participate in any promotional incentives and giveaways. They are removed from the casinos’ correspondence lists as well.
Gambling advertising is permitted as long as the marketing materials feature the numbers of helplines offering assistance to problem gamblers. Said numbers should also be conspicuously displayed in the gaming areas. Rhode Island is among the few states where people have access to the gaming floor as long as they are at least 18 years old. Inducing people below this age to gamble is against the law.
Sports Betting Regulations in Rhode Island
Sports betting has been legal in Rhode Island since June 2018 when it gained legislative approval by then-Governor Gina Raimondo. The two casinos in Lincoln and Tiverton initially received authorization to accept in-person wagers on their premises only. Legal online wagering became possible after Gov. Raimondo signed S0037 into law in 2019.
Legal Forms of Online Gambling
Rhode Islanders can legally engage in two forms of interactive gambling, the first one being online sports betting at the state-authorized platform Sportsbook Rhode Island. Betting on daily fantasy sports (DFS) is the only other legal option available here. In 2016, Attorney General Peter Kilmartin determined these paid-entry contests do not violate local laws.
Kilmartin expressed his opinion in a letter to then-Governor Gina Raimondo. He said that while the outcome of some daily fantasy games was purely based on chance, skill was a dominant factor for winning in others. According to Attorney General Kilmartin, DFS did not constitute illegal gambling because they involved a mixture of both skill and luck. Nonetheless, he strongly recommended the enactment of a statute to govern and regulate DFS operations in Rhode Island.
Online casino games are not yet legal but state authorities are not particularly strict when it comes to restrictions enforcement. Some residents of the state frequent online casinos licensed in foreign jurisdictions that accept registrations from Rhode Island. There are no examples of players suffering any legal repercussions for gambling on such offshore websites.
Rhode Island started as a colony of Puritan settlers driven out of neighboring Massachusetts due to their unconventional religious beliefs. Nonetheless, gambling laws here are not as stringent as one would expect. Rhode Island has adopted a relatively relaxed attitude to such activities, offering legal sports betting, commercial casino games, lotteries, and daily fantasy sports. The only thing missing is legal online casino-style gaming but this may change in the future once state legislators recognize the profitability of regulating it.