Mobile Gambling could soon be legal in Rhode Island

Erica Clark – Asst. News Editor

Concerns of legislators were high last week over the expansion of allowing sports fans to lay a wager on games from their mobile devices.

In a hearing at the House Finance Committee, a bill was introduced by House Speaker Nicolas Mattiello and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, who are attempting to expand Rhode Island’s gambling scene. This bill would mean transforming the sports betting program into something gamblers can do in the comfort of their own home.

If this bill passes, this will allow anyone inside state borders to place a wager on a location-enabled mobile device.

Before being able to use your mobile device for betting, the bill requires you to register for an account in person at one of the two Rhode Island casinos. You are not granted access to the app unless registered.  This obligation assists with checking ID and run names through the database to exclude problematic gamblers.

During the hearing, Division of Lottery Administrator Gerald Aubin told legislators the state has hired a full-time problem gambling coordinator for any potential issues. There is a contract sealed with the United Way to answer a 24/7 hotline if needed by patrons. Individuals who choose to use the hotline are referred to treatment centers, and the state will pay for treatment if a person does not have insurance or coverage.

If Rhode Island legalizes mobile sports betting, DraftKings, the daily fantasy sports company, plans to submit a bid to become the mobile app vendor, according to attorney Julie Pearlman.

On Thursday Pearlman testified that the company requests to eliminate the in-person registration requirement because it could potentially limit access to the new legal gaming option.

Gov. Gina Raimondo has incorporated mobile gambling into her 2019-20 fiscal year budget, estimating it would bring $3 million in state revenue if implemented in January. January hits halfway through the fiscal year, and the state estimates waging on mobile devices would bring in $8.5 million the following fiscal year. Rhode Island’s sports betting law gives the state 51% of the revenue.

The House Finance Committee was unable to vote on the bill Thursday night.