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Rhode Island officially becomes eighth US state to offer sports betting
26 November 2018
By Gary Trask
LINCOLN, R.I. - Moments after making one of three ceremonial first wagers at the newly opened sportsbook at Twin River Casino
, Rhode Island Senate President Dominick Ruggerio was asked if his $20 ticket on the Houston Texans minus the points over Tennessee in tonight's Monday Night Football game was a good bet.
"I don't know," he said with a smile and shrug. "Call me at midnight and I'll let you know."
One thing is for sure: Even if the Texans don't come close to covering the four points, Ruggerio will most certainly consider Monday a winning day.
The 69-year-old has been involved with Rhode Island politics for over three decades and has been a huge supporter of bringing legalized sports betting to the Ocean State. Monday was a day for him to rejoice, regardless of whether or not he cashes a winning ticket.
"I've been waiting 40 years for this day," he said, just before placing his bet alongside House Speaker Nicholas Matiello and Twin River Worldwide Holdings Chairman John Taylor Jr., who each wagered on the Boston Celtics in tonight's game, plus the two points, against New Orleans. "I'm very confident that sports wagering will provide a steady stream of new revenue for the state and be helpful to some of the initiatives that we're looking forward to accomplishing in the coming year."
With those three wagers, Rhode Island became the first New England state to offer sports wagering. A line of nearly 100 excited sports bettors followed the three legislators to the window. Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal ban on sports was unconstitutional
and abolished the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) back in May, Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and now Rhode Island have joined Nevada in offering legalized sports wagering.
"We're very excited to be the first New England state to go live with sports betting, and we hope to stay in that pole position for as long as possible," Taylor said. "And we're excited to give our players another product that they can come and enjoy."
IGT and Scientific Games are the state’s official sports betting partners and Rhode Island’s lottery oversees the operation. The state receives 51% of the revenue from sports betting, with the vendors getting 32% and the casino receiving 17%.
Monday marked the launch the first phase, with a small counter and three ticket windows accepting single-game wagers on the third floor of the casino near the racing simulcast area. The sports betting menu is expected to expand in the coming days, with the addition of future bets and other sports than just football, basketball and hockey.
Phase 2 is under construction on the second floor, down the hall from the popular poker room
, in an area that once served as the grandstand for the former Lincoln Downs racetrack in the 1940s. When completed in mid-December, the 3,600-square-foot space will have dedicated sports betting counters and food and beverage service, odds boards, and over 100 televisions of varying sizes.
"This will bring out the social aspect of the sports betting experience for everyone, from the most casual sports bettor to the most serious," said Twin River VP and General Manager Craig Sculos, adding that the counters that opened upstairs today will remain open when Phase 2 is completed. "It's designed to be the tailgate party, without having to go outside for the tailgate."
"Phase 2 is where the market is heading," added Taylor. "It will be a comfortable place where guests can come in and make a bet, sit down on couches, have a beer and enjoy themselves."
Zack Natola from Watertown, Massachusetts, about 50 miles north of Lincoln, is one of those customers that expects to be a regular at Twin River now that sports betting has gone live. The 30-year-old real estate broker was first in line on Monday and said he has often traveled to Las Vegas sportsbooks. He is thrilled to now have one close to home.
"I always thought it was kind of strange that only one state could offer sports betting," said Natola, who also planned to lay the points with Houston in Monday Night Football. "I can see myself coming down here once a week or so, and betting a couple hundred dollars. I look at it as entertainment. Some people like to go shopping or go to the movies. I like to bet on sports."
Also in mid-December, about 35 miles away, Twin River's sister property, Tiverton Casino Hotel
, which celebrated its grand opening on Labor Day Weekend
, will also launch sports betting.
The state's contract also includes a provision for on-site mobile sports wagering, but Ruggerio said a best-case scenario for that very important step would be 1 July, the first day of the new fiscal year.
"We'll have to go through the whole legislative process again, and I'm sure there will be some hurdles," he said. "But I do think that once we get everything up and running here and work out all the kinks, the mobile gaming issue will be easier. And that will be another game-changer and provide even more revenue. It's an exciting time, for sure."