Rhode Island Senate President Optimistic about Legalization of Mobile Betting

Rhode Island could legalize mobile betting next year, activity to double sports betting revenue contributions to the state

A key Rhode Island legislator is optimistic that the state will start offering legal mobile sports betting sometime next year, CBS affiliate WPRI-TV reports.

Senate President Dominick Ruggerio told local media that he will introduce a bill calling for the authorization of mobile betting on the territory of Rhode Island. The lawmaker is currently working on the piece and plans to submit it to the Legislature early into the next legislative session.

If his push succeeds, Rhode Island will become the first New England state to offer digital betting and one of only a handful of states around the country to have legalized the practice.

The Senate President believes mobile betting would produce tens of millions of dollars in revenue for Rhode Island’s coffers by next year. According to his early projections, the legalization of mobile betting would more than double the state’s sports betting tax revenue to about $50 million per year.

A recent report by Oxford Economics presents a more ambitious picture of the state’s sports betting scene, claiming that legalized sports betting would help handle reach more than $1.1 billion a year. The state would collect almost $80 million from the activity, Oxford Economics says.

Senate President Ruggerio’s bill would allow sports gamblers to place bets via their smartphones anywhere in the state. The lawmaker said he was optimistic about the future of the state’s sports betting industry.

”A Good Deal for Taxpayers”

Two Rhode Island casinos are currently offering sports betting. Twin River Casino in Lincoln opened its sportsbook on November 26 and its sister venue in Tiverton went live with sports gambling a week later.

Rhode Island taxes legal betting operations at 51% on revenue. Analysts say the state will collect $11.5 million in tax revenue from the two operational sportsbooks by the end of the current fiscal year on June 30, 2019.

Mr. Ruggerio told local media that sports betting is a good deal for taxpayers as it generates additional revenue that would help the state’s programs, fix roads and schools.

Asked about his opinion on the legalization of mobile betting, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello said that if a bill on the matter is introduced, “it will get a fair public hearing.” Mr. Mattiello has pointed out in previous comments on the topic that mobile betting could certainly be “an idea worth a thorough review” if it provides enhanced gambling experience for Rhode Islanders and additional revenue for the state’s coffers.

However, there are people who are less enthusiastic about the prospect of legalized mobile betting. Providence College Professor Patrick Kelly, who has been studying problem gambling for the past decade, said that providing problem gamblers with the convenience to wager money with a few swipes on their phones could unleash a tragedy.

Professor Kelly also pointed out that the state does not contribute enough money to problem gambling programs. At present, Rhode Island allocates $125,000 annually for such programs or 1% of what it collects from various gambling services provided on its territory.

Senate President Ruggerio said that he would consider a bigger cut to problem gambling treatment and prevention, “if necessary.”

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