Legal online casino gaming could come to Rhode Island as soon as 1 January 2024. This is thanks to the new law that will see the Ocean State becoming just the seventh US state to legalize online casino gaming after New Jersey, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia and Connecticut.
It comes after the state governor Daniel McKee signed the necessary legislation into Rhode Island law earlier this month. The law will basically allow anyone over the age of 21 in Rhode Island to play table games online either through a computer or a mobile app. This is in contrast to the minimum age of 18 years for sports betting and online lottery gaming in the Ocean State.
However, there is a catch. This is because these must be pre-existing table games at the Bally’s Twin River Casino in Lincoln. Plus there was a further amendment made to the legal text that demanded that a live dealer be present during the table gaming sessions. Such a requirement mirrors one which is already in place at New Jersey online casinos, and Ballys will have to provide extra resources to educate young people about the dangers of problem gaming.
The legislation was brought forward by the Senate President Dominick Ruggerio and Representative Gregory Costantino. Ruggerio stated that the legislation would provide, ‘an added convenience to Rhode Islanders who like to play the existing table games offered at Twin River via their mobile devices.’
He added that this will aid the Rhode Island casino to keep up with the competition in the regional gaming market and bring in additional revenue streams that provide funding for a variety of state programs. It is estimated that the move could bring in an extra $210 million in tax revenues over the next five years.
While the new legislation will be broadly welcomed, it is just a tentative step forwards compared to the online casino gaming possibilities enjoyed by rival states. Much of this is due to the relatively small size of Rhode Island that has a population of just one million. This is just enough to support Bally’s which currently has the monopoly on casino gaming in the Ocean State at its two physical casino outlets.
While Bally will hold onto its monopoly, the gambling industry in Rhode Island is already feeling the effects of a rollout of legal online gambling in the New England area. With legal sports betting going live in Massachusetts earlier this year, the Bay State is thought to be on its way to losing up to 10% of its gambling revenues to its larger neighboring state.
As such, it’s going to be interesting to see whether there are any further updates to the online casino gaming legislation in Rhode Island. The door is certainly open to an expansion into online slots, but whether Bally’s and the state legislators would give a green light to the move remains to be seen.
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