Sen. Dominick Ruggerio of Rhode Island

  • Rhode Island passed two bills regarding their current sports betting laws to allow residents to sign up for mobile sportsbooks from home.
  • The gaming industry is the third-largest source of revenue in the Ocean State and has been losing money since the outbreak of COVID-19 and all that has happened as a result.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. Senator Dominick Ruggerio, President of the Senate of the Rhode Island General Assembly, spoke to LegalSportsBetting about House Bill 8097 and Senate Bill 2919 as each were passed on Thursday and he is a sponsor to both.

The bills change the Rhode Island sports betting laws to get rid of in-person registration required at the two Twin River’s casino locations and allows gamblers to sign up for mobile sportsbook platforms from home. They are now on their way to Governor Gina Raimondo’s desk to be signed into law.

Senator Ruggerio Gets Down To Brass Tacks

The state of Rhode Island is in dire need of revenue due to the Coronavirus Pandemic and making changes to the legal jargon with its sports betting industry could help ease the financial burden it’s under.

Senator Ruggerio truly believes in the legal sports betting market in the Ocean State and has been a legal gaming advocate since 1982.

Now, with a statewide budget crisis, House Bill 8097 and Senate Bill 2919 have come in to help a revenue stream that’s taken a huge hit because of the outbreak of COVID-19.

“Gaming is our third-largest source of revenue in Rhode Island and it’s been affected by the COVID-19 virus,” said Ruggerio. “We are trying to get back as much revenue as we possibly can and we feel that this is a way to do it to encourage people to subscribe to the app without having to go to a facility physically.”

While states like R.I. are slowly in reopening phases, Ruggerio believes this is the perfect time to change the law as it stands because not everyone wants to go out just yet. The virus has changed the way people socialize and congregating in large groups is more of a memory than a reality for everyone across the globe.

“A gaming facility just opened up, doing all the appropriate masking and social distancing and things of that nature, but we felt that it was probably best if people could register for an app without going up to the facility in person. I think some people are still wary of going to places with everything that’s going on right now so that’s the reason we are looking at this particular situation at this point in time to try and allow people an alternative form of recreation while they’re at home.”

Prior to the hearing that took place that same day, Ruggerio explained that both House Bill 8097 and Senate Bill 2919 were identical pieces of legislation. He was confident that they would pass within the Assembly with an overwhelming majority and he was correct in his thinking as later that afternoon, they did.

Other states like New Jersey have been looked toward when trying to figure a way for Rhode Island to make the most of their legal sports betting landscape.

“We’ve looked at other states and how they’ve been adjusting the situation and from what we’ve seen we figured that would increase the number of people who will participate. Especially now with sports starting to start again, up until now it’s all been soccer and two or three different sports that people can wager on and that’s not really cutting it right now.”

Once the bill is officially law, everything is ready to go as far as the app is concerned. Ruggerio said there were a few minor kinks in the mobile application when it came to sports bettors trying to access it but those issues have been addressed and everything should be fine as far as platform accessibility goes.

And if sign-ups could occur from home, more people may now be inclined to start betting on sports, especially now that they are beginning to come back. But there is no real estimate on potential increased revenue because it’s all dependent on participation by gamblers in Rhode Island.

“I don’t have an estimate about future revenue, obviously it depends on the number of people who subscribe to the app but I think it will enhance whatever revenues we do have coming in at this point in time and I think that once some of these sports get up and running like the NFL, the app will be something that an individual that wants to bet on games will be comfortable using.”

This would be a welcome change for the Ocean State and for an advocate of the industry like Ruggerio who was originally disappointed in how the legal sports betting market came to Rhode Island.

“When we first did sports gaming the state really didn’t get up the money in a timely fashion and we lost revenue from it. This was not this past year but the year before where we lost revenue from it so we are trying to see how we can go and make all the adjustments we can possibly make to make it a better situation for everyone.”

What Comes Next?

Rhode Island has budget discussions that will occur sometime in August as they have been put on hold until Congress decides whether or not to give states any more stimulus money, per Ruggerio.

However, this will have no effect on the changes to the sports betting laws with the passage of both bills. In fact, the Senator is assured that these bills will become law and a signature by the Governor could be seen as a minor formality.

“The in-person issue is going to be law July 16 and I’m sure that the Governor will either sign it or let it become law without her signature.” we are looking forward to increasing our revenue and deriving some revenue because it is so needed right now.”

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