Rhode Island Now Offering Mobile Sports Betting Despite Ongoing Lawsuit

  • Twin River Casino launched mobile sportsbook on September 4
  • Ongoing lawsuit could put a stop to sports betting if successful
  • Lawsuit claims a public vote on sports betting is required
  • State will proceed with opening mobile sportsbooks unless a judge instructs otherwise
flag of Rhode Island state
Rhode Island now has live mobile sports betting while the lawsuit against sports betting in the state is still ongoing. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

A long time coming

Rhode Island finally has legal mobile sports betting after many delays, mainly caused by a lawsuit that questions the legality of sports betting in the state.

The Twin River Casino went live with its mobile sportsbook at 3pm on September 4, in time for the start of the NFL season.

Major hold-up

To push through mobile sports betting legalization in Rhode Island, the state officials had said no public vote was needed on the issue. This was because voters were said to already have given approval when voting in favor of table games in both 2012 and 2016. Both of these ballots had the inclusion for Class 3 gaming.

However, a group led by Republicans disputed the officials’ decision. They filed a lawsuit, claiming that voter approval is required to bring in all types of sports betting.

The court hearing began on September 4, with the state pushing for a dismissal of the lawsuit. In the meantime, Rhode Island is still going ahead with mobile sports betting as no injunction has been issued. 

move forward unless the judge gives us some reason to pause

The Rhode Island Department of Revenue’s Public Information Office spokesperson said: “The plan is to move forward unless the judge gives us some reason to pause.”

If the lawsuit is successful, this will likely see an end to all forms of sports betting in Rhode Island until there is a public vote on the issue.

Rhode Island’s mobile sports betting market

If you are in Rhode Island, you can initially sign up for an account through your mobile or desktop device. However, you will still need to pay a visit to the Twin River Casino to verify your identity and activate your new account. 

You do not have to be a resident of Rhode Island to sign up. Lawmakers hope that those from nearby Connecticut and Massachusetts will travel to Rhode Island to set up their mobile sports betting accounts. Rhode Island remains the first state in New England to have open mobile sportsbooks.

The Department of Revenue aims to garner a total of $22.7m in revenue from sports betting in the current fiscal year. It estimates that $17m of this figure will come from mobile sports betting alone. 

Since retail sports betting launched last year, revenue has been disappointing, with just $7.7m being accumulated. This was after a revision of the initial estimate of $23m in revenue for this period, which saw it lowered to a more realistic figure of $11.5m.

Road to approval

Legislation got approval in 2018 for the two casinos in Rhode Island to open sportsbooks. These are the Twin River Casino and the Tiverton Casino. Governor Gina Raimondo signed the bill and sportsbooks opened in November 2018. 

The results in the first few months were underwhelming. Observing the success that the nearby state of New Jersey was having, with mobile sportsbooks accounting for almost 85% of all sports bets, Rhode Island lawmakers legalized mobile sports betting in March 2019.