In Rhode Island news, the state House of Representatives has approved the legalization of online sports betting. It means the expansion of gambling into another state, but it depends on the reaction to the bill by Governor Gina Raimondo.
While there are opponents, she is expected to agree to the enactment soon. Bets can then be placed online anywhere in Rhode Island, provided that players sign up at either of two Twin River casino. In fact, the governor has already included sports betting in the annual state budget, assuming a revenue boost of $8.5 million for needy programs. Standalone bills introduced by Dominick Ruggerio, Senate President, and Nicholas Mattiello, House Speaker, will result in an operational sports betting app. They hope online wagers will be stronger than casino-based transactions.
Ruggerio has been enthusiastic all along, supporting mobile sports betting as a viable change in gaming laws. He was challenged by Republicans who introduced an amendment to mandate a Supreme Court advisory opinion. It failed to receive the necessary votes and the mobile betting bill passed by a wide margin, 64 to 8.
“I think before we spend a ton of money as we build our budget around it, we should get the clarity of the Supreme Court,”
says House GOP leader Blake Filippi of Block Island. He feels that time was the factor that prohibited consulting with the judicial body. It would be a rare move for the assembly to seek an advisory opinion. It hasn’t been done since former Governor Donald Carcieri inquired about the 2004 Casino Act.
Now we wait to see if voter approval is granted for gambling in Rhode Island. They have already given the thumbs up in the 2012 and 2016 referenda on table gaming. The legal opinions of local attorneys is that online gambling’s status will depend on the role of the existing casinos who will have to manage the computer servers involved. This would curb the perception of gambling’s expansion across the state.
In any case, the 2018 Supreme Court decision to legalize gambling is going to be the driving force in Rhode Island’s entry into sports betting. “There’s no way in the world that the citizens of our state, when they approved the referendums several years ago, saw this coming down the line,” says Rep. Jack Lyle (R-Lincoln). But it is here as a fact.
Of concern is gambling addition which could be on the rise if people find it easy to partake in wagering. Some want the state to address the problem and provide resources, such as Rep. Teresa Tanzi (D-South Kingstown).
“There’s something very different about being a problem gambler and having to go to Tiverton or Lincoln; you are going to be out for an hour or two or three and have to explain where you have been and come home smelling like a cigarette,” she says. “This can be done in your basement or sitting next to your spouse in the very same room. This is another realm, something people will be able to do under the radar until it is a problem for them.”
A version of this article first appeared at wfsb.com