[The state regulator] may enter into an interactive gaming reciprocal agreement with a regulatory agency of one or more other states or jurisdictions in which interactive gaming is authorized to allow an interactive gaming operator to accept wagers from persons not physically present in Rhode Island. Lawmakers in Rhode Island have introduced bills that would legalize online casino gaming and poker and would also allow the state to join a multi-state gaming compact for online poker
The development comes two months after executives with Bally’s Corporation announced they wanted to help lawmakers draft legislation to launch real money online casino gaming and poker in the state.
On Thursday, Senate President Dominick Ruggerio (D-North Providence) and Rep. Gregory Constantino (D-Lincoln) announced that they had submitted two identical bills — SB 948 and HB 6348 — in their respective chambers of the Rhode Island General Assembly. The lawmakers confirmed that the bills had been requested by Bally’s.
“This legislation is a first step in the public review process around potential iGaming in Rhode Island,” Ruggerio said in a joint statement with House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Warwick). “Our state casinos provide an important source of revenue to fund vital programs and investments that benefit all Rhode Islanders.
“The companies that manage casino operations on behalf of the state have made significant investments to ensure they are well positioned to thrive in the years ahead,” Ruggerio and Shekarchi said, adding, “It is imperative that we continue to explore all avenues to protect and bolster our competitive position, including the potential for iGaming.”
There is still plenty of time for either bill to become law since the legislature doesn’t adjourn until June 30. SB 948 was promptly referred to the Senate Special Legislation and Veterans Affairs Committee, while HB 6348 was sent to the House Finance Committee.
“The Senate and House Finance Committees will now begin a rigorous public review process during which all aspects of the proposal will be thoroughly examined, including proper protections,” added Ruggerio and Shekarchi.
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What the Bills Propose
The two bills propose launching online casino gaming and poker in Rhode Island starting from January 1, 2024.
The legislation calls for levying a 50% tax rate on slots and 18% on table games but also makes a distinction between an “iGaming platform vendor” and an “iGaming game vendor.” Under both bills, the former is identified as IGT Global Solutions Corporation, while the latter is Bally’s.
IGT would receive 35% of online slot gaming revenue, while Bally’s would get the remaining 15%. Meanwhile, IGT would receive 35% of revenue from online table games — Bally’s would get the 47% that remains.
Neither bill mentions live dealer games. The Rhode Island Lottery would serve as the state regulator.
RI Could Join Multi-State Gaming Compact
Both pieces of legislation also contain a surprise: Authorization for the state to join a multi-state online poker gaming compact.
The bills state that the Lottery “may enter into an interactive gaming reciprocal agreement with a regulatory agency of one or more other states or jurisdictions in which interactive gaming is authorized to allow an interactive gaming operator to accept wagers from persons not physically present in Rhode Island.”
The legislation also calls for allowing “persons physically present in Rhode Island to place wagers with parties to the interactive gaming reciprocal agreement if the reciprocal agreement is not inconsistent with federal law and is approved by the governor.”
That means Rhode Island could join the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA), a multi-state compact for online poker and some casino gaming that currently includes Delaware, Michigan, Nevada, and New Jersey. Membership in a compact like MSIGA would help support online poker because it provides shared liquidity, creating larger player pools. It would also lead to larger prizes for players.
There is one wrinkle — Bally’s doesn’t have a poker platform. It’s also unclear if the legislation would allow Bally’s to partner with a third party for online poker in the state.
Providence-based Bally’s holds a monopoly on land-based casino gaming in Rhode Island. It owns and operates two casinos in the state — Twin River Lincoln Casino Resort and Bally’s Tiverton Casino & Hotel. Twin River is in Constantino’s district.
Bally’s also provides online sports betting through its SportsBook Rhode Island website since September 2019. Online sports betting is taxed at 51% in the state.