Rhode Island sports betting is legal and thriving in the Ocean State. As the eighth US jurisdiction to legalize sports betting, Rhode Island is traditionally progressive in many aspects and has been known for making bold political stances. This has never been more evident regarding gambling laws, especially in recent years.
Following the US Supreme Court’s decision in 2018 to overturn a federal ban on sports betting, the Ocean State was quick to respond. Within weeks of the Supreme Court’s ruling, Rhode Island state legislators were already preparing to roll out legally sanctioned sports betting across the state. After several months of discussions and amendments, Senate Bill 2045 was enacted in 2018, allowing Rhode Island sports betting hopefuls aged 18 and over to legally wager on their favorite teams and games within their state.
Since this historical development, Rhode Island has shown its progressive stance further by continuing to expand on these new laws. For example, in keeping with the modern era, it legalized mobile sports betting with Senate Bill 37. At the same time, it scrapped a somewhat outdated requirement for in-person registration, favoring a more 21st century friendly online approach.
Rhode Island has rich historical connections with thoroughbred racing – the famous Seabiscuit won his first race at one of the state’s tracks. So it’s surprising that Rhode Island no longer has live horse racing tracks. This is perhaps reflective of changing times and the Ocean State’s characteristic tendency to keep up with the modern world. But how exactly is Rhode Island adapting to the present with its approach to sports wagering? And will its new gambling laws expand further to accommodate the future Rhode Island sports betting fans?
Best Rhode Island Betting Sites
As a Rhode Islander looking for a Rhode Island Sportsbook, listed below are our expert recommendations. If you enjoy casino games, Rhode Island players also have the option to play their favorite casino games at these online gambling websites.
However, only one website in the state of Rhode Island currently offers online betting on Rhode Island sports events. This website is Sportsbook RI, the only one offering online betting on Rhode Island sports.
Legal Sports Betting In Rhode Island
If you are a Rhode Islander you can legally enjoy wagering on sporting teams and events online. The Sportsbook Rhode Island mobile app, operated by the state’s lottery and powered by William Hill, can be downloaded on iPhone or Android devices. As long as users are located within the Ocean State, wagers on sports can be placed legally.
The state’s Bally Twin River Casino has also rolled out its sports betting app, and it’s anticipated that other internationally renowned sportsbooks, such as William Hill, will soon follow suit.
Thanks to an update in the legislation, Rhode Island sports betting hopefuls no longer have to register with the online betting platform at a retail casino. Before July 2020, would-be bettors had to create their sportsbook accounts in person at the Twin River or Tiverton Casinos. Today, however, bettors can open their sportsbook accounts from the comfort of their own homes online.
How To Pick A Rhode Island Sports Betting Site
Rhode Island sports betting hopefuls are currently limited to the state-approved online sportsbooks the lottery runs. In the meantime, Rhode Islanders can visit online platforms via their mobile browser.
While it’s certainly conceivable that other sportsbook operators will no doubt arrive in the Ocean State shortly, at present, gamblers will likely look to offshore operators in search of better promotions and odds. But, of course, this is extremely risky, so it’s essential only to visit trusted bookmakers who are not only licensed but have a credible reputation.
Collect a list of reputable sites to compare and think very carefully before parting with your money. Any good betting platform will be backed up by solid online reviews and a good reputation. Also, ensure it offers a decent customer support service, and, above all, it should be licensed by a credible authority. Finally, always read and ensure you fully understand the website’s terms and conditions before you sign up.
History / Timeline Of Sports Betting in Rhode Island
Historically, Rhode Island has always had a relatively liberal stance towards gambling compared to other US states. However, the state has updated its legislation towards sports betting on several occasions, particularly within the last few years since the US Supreme Court overturned the federal sports gambling ban.
The history of gambling in Rhode Island goes back to the colonial times of the 17 th and 18 th centuries. Lotteries were popular among settlers until the colonial legislature banned these games in 1732. After being reintroduced in 1744, lotteries continued operating in the state for more than 100 years underneath the Rhode Island General Assembly. However, lotteries were outlawed in the Ocean State again in 1842 and were not revived until the current state lottery was created.
But the first significant action in the Rhode Island sports betting movement – at least in modern times – came just before the Second World War, when voters approved a bill to legalize pari-mutuel gambling on horse races in 1934. That same year, the state opened its first race track at Narragansett Park in Pawtucket, becoming synonymous with thoroughbred racing.
History was made at Narragansett in 1935 when Seabiscuit – who would go on to become one of the world’s most famous and successful racehorses – won his first race at the track. A second state racetrack, Lincoln Downs, opened in 1947, and for almost three decades, horse racing was thriving in the Ocean State.
Unfortunately, however, by the mid-1970s, horse racing began to lose popularity with Rhode Island sports betting supporters. As a result, Narragansett Park closed forever in 1978, while Lincoln Downs had its last thoroughbred race in 1976. That same year, a large share of Lincoln Downs was sold to Taunton Greyhound Association, and the track reopened the following summer for its first greyhound racing season.
Renamed Lincoln Greyhound Park, Rhode Island sports betting enthusiasts enjoyed putting wagers on the dogs at the former Lincoln Downs for over two decades. However, by the mid-1990s, the income from live dog racing at the track was declining. This was due partly to competition from Connecticut gambling sites and increased awareness among the population regarding animal welfare. To retain the Rhode Island sports betting fans who were taking their custom elsewhere, Lincoln Park started introducing simulcasting of greyhound and horse races.
While the 1970s saw the rapid decline and eventual abandonment of horse racing in the Ocean State, that same decade did see a positive development in the Rhode Island sports betting campaign. The year 1973 saw the establishment of the Rhode Island State Lottery, and the following year, it was finally rolled out. Often referred to locally as ‘The Lot’, the state lottery is still in existence today and is the most significant voluntary source of income for Rhode Island, benefiting everyone who lives in, works in, and visits the state.
In 1991, the Narragansett Tribe bought and entrusted 31 acres of land intending to build Rhode Island’s first tribal casino. However, since the tribe wasn’t federally recognized until 1983, the state ruled that they had no jurisdiction to put the land into a trust, and the plans fell through. Nevertheless, the Narragansett have continued to attempt to open a casino within Rhode Island but have so far been unsuccessful.
The millennium proved particularly fruitful for Rhode Island sports betting advocates. A referendum took place in 2012, whereby residents voted in favor of legalizing casino gambling. Following this result, the Twin River Casino and the Newport Grand Casino began offering legal table games.
A further referendum in 2016 produced another vote in favor of Rhode Island sports betting legislation. That year, State Attorney General Peter Kilmartin announced that daily fantasy sports were legal under state law, allowing sites such as DraftKings and FanDuel to operate legally in the state.
The start of 2018 saw efforts by Rhode Island State Representative Charlene Lima to introduce a bill for online scratch-off tickets. While the bill failed to make it to vote, it remains a reminder of the numerous attempts within the Rhode Island sports betting campaign to bring online wagering to legislation.
In May 2018, advocates for Rhode Island sports betting regulation no doubt celebrated when the United States Supreme Court overturned the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). This significant move authorized individual states to pass their own sports gambling laws and paved the way for Rhode Island sports betting legislation.
Rhode Island was fast to act, being among the first states to make a move in legalizing sports gambling. A month after the United States Supreme Court’s ruling, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo included sports betting in the state’s 2019 budget and signed Senate Bill 2045 – which would legislate for Rhode Island sports betting – into law. As part of the legislation, the Rhode Island State Lottery would regulate and oversee all aspects of the state’s sports gambling.
In September 2018, the Newport Grand Casino, a video gaming terminal, was closed as part of the state gaming license relocation to the Tiverton Casino. Two months later, on November 26th, the first sports bet was accepted at Bally’s Twin River Casino in Lincoln. A week later, Rhode Island sports betting was extended to Bally’s Twin River Tiverton Casino.
On March 12th 2019, the House passed Senate Bill 37 to legalize Rhode Island mobile sports betting. Governor Raimondo signed the bill on March 25th, officially adding mobile sportsbooks to the Ocean State’s regulated sports gambling market. Sportsbook Rhode Island, regulated by the state lottery, officially launched its mobile app on September 4th, 2019.
Rhode Island sports betting hopefuls intending to wager via the new mobile platform were initially required to register in person at one of the state’s casinos to verify their identity. This latter policy was scrapped the following summer. However – in July, House Bill 8097 and Senate Bill 2919 were passed and subsequently signed by Governor Raimondo. These bills dropped the requirement for mobile sports gamblers to complete their registration at the state’s land-based casinos. As a result, Rhode Island sports betting enthusiasts no longer have to visit a retail sportsbook to create their mobile account.
By September that year, Rhode Island sports betting was thriving and surged by more than 230% in just these few months.
The Rhode Island sports betting handle has generated more than $145 million for the state and continues to show promise.
Rhode Island Sports Teams
With a population of just over one million people, it’s of little surprise that Rhode Island doesn’t have any major league professional sports teams. Nonetheless, Rhode Islanders are passionate fans of sport and make up a fair portion of the supporters for many of the major league teams in neighboring states.
With a mere 50 miles between the Rhode Island state capital from Boston, it’s no surprise to learn that Rhode Islanders often support the Massachusetts capital city’s teams. However, Rhode Island sporting fans are also known to support major league teams in other states, such as Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Ocean State fans’ most popular National Football League team is the North Division’s Pittsburgh Steelers;. However, many Rhode Islanders follow the New England Patriots, a Greater Boston-based league’s East Division team. Both popular National Football League teams are successful and present ideal options for Rhode Island sports betting hopefuls. On a more local level are the Rhode Island Reds, who play in the National Premier Soccer League and have a loyal fan base.
Basketball is also popular among Rhode Islanders, with fans rooting for the Boston Celtics in the National Basketball Association League. The Celtics are the nearest major league basketball team for residents of the Ocean State to visit and support, so, unsurprisingly, they’re so popular. Closer to home, however, Rhode Islanders are particularly enthusiastic and loyal to their collegiate sports teams. Regarding basketball, Rhode Island sports betting hopefuls have an excellent choice in two home teams in Division I of the United States National Collegiate Athletic Association. The University of Rhode Island Rams, who compete in Division I of the association, have exceeded expectations recently and are often considered a ‘Cinderella story’ team.
While betting on Rhode Island, collegiate events are currently not permitted under the current state legislation. However, there’s every chance that this could change in the future. Therefore, the Rams might soon be a lucrative wager choice for Rhode Island sports betting fans. Likewise, the Providence Friars could also be an attractive team for sports gamblers. Members of the highly competitive Big East Conference, the team always plays to a high standard and consistently performs above and beyond expectations.
Regarding Major League Baseball, Rhode Island is surrounded by professional teams in the neighboring states. While baseball fans in the Ocean State tend to back the Boston Red Sox, there are numerous other options for Rhode Island sports betting devotees, such as the Philadelphia Phillies, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the New York Yankees, the New Jersey Jackals, and many more.
Rhode Islanders like their ice hockey, and many of them support the National Hockey League’s Boston Bruins – the Bruins’ primary development team, the Providence Bruins, is based in Rhode Island. The Providence Bruins, who play in the American Hockey League and are housed at the state capital’s Dunkin’ Donuts Center, are the state’s only professional minor league team.
The Rhode Island Reds are a top semi-professional soccer team competing in the Fourth Division of the National Premier Soccer League and has a solid fan base among sports gamblers.
Collegiate clubs have a strong following in Rhode Island, with four of the state’s schools involved in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I. The Rhode Island Rams compete in the Atlantic 10 Conference, the Bryant University Bulldogs are members of the America East Conference, the Brown University Bears are in the Ivy League, and the Providence College Friars play in the Big East Conference. Although wagering on collegiate teams and games is not currently legal in the state, Rhode Island’s progressive politics might permit the practice shortly. It’s, therefore, worth keeping an eye on the most successful state collegiate clubs.
Retail Sports Betting in Rhode Island
Rhode Island is a small state with only two bricks and mortar casinos – Bally’s Tiverton Casino and Hotel and Bally’s Twin River Casino Resort. Sports betting is legal in both venues, but other entertainments include slot machines, table games, dining, live music performances, and more. The Tiverton is located in the eastern part of Rhode Island, while the Twin River is situated in the state’s northern region, within an easy drive from Providence.
But why limit a night at the casinos to just the local venues? Several casinos in neighboring states are just a short drive away. However, Rhode Island sports betting hopefuls should be aware that while they can legally wager on sports in Connecticut, Massachusetts is yet to legalize the practice. Sportsbooks in Massachusetts currently only allow for horse racing and offshore platforms.
Presently, there are no tribal casinos in the state of Rhode Island. Nonetheless, the Narragansett Tribe has made numerous attempts over the last few decades to open a casino in the state.
Daily Fantasy Sports
Unlike most US states, where daily fantasy sports are considered a legal grey area, Rhode Island has acknowledged these games. Attorney General Peter Kilmartin announced in 2016 that daily fantasy sports were legal under Rhode Island state law. Kilmartin’s opinion was based on the consensus that fantasy sports are games requiring skill rather than determined by chance. This announcement gave the green light for sites such as DraftKings and FanDuel to be played legally by Rhode Island sports betting fans.
Offshore Sports Betting
Rhode Island sports betting legislation currently doesn’t allow for collegiate sports or athletic events within the state. Therefore, Rhode Islanders wishing to wager on their favorite college teams would have to do so via an offshore platform.
Generally, betting on offshore sportsbooks should be discouraged, but if you want to wager on one, ensure that it is fully licensed and credible. An offshore betting site that offers outstanding and too-good-to-be-true offers should be treated with extreme caution. Many of these sites are notorious for poor customer service, issues with payments, risk of confiscated winnings, and other problems.
It’s worth noting that platforms based in Curacao and Costa Rica are usually recognized internationally and are generally safe and secure, but always do your research first. BetUs, Bovada, and MyBookie are currently the most popular reputable platforms among Rhode Island sports betting fans.
Rhode Island Horse Racing & Off-Track Betting
While Rhode Island has a rich history in thoroughbred racing and legal pari-mutuel wagering, the last horse track in the state closed in the 1970s. As a result, Rhode Island sports betting hopefuls who enjoy horseracing are limited to simulcast wagering at one of the state’s casinos or via online betting platforms. Those who want live horse racing can visit race tracks in neighboring states, such as Suffolk Downs in Massachusetts.
Final Thoughts / Summary
Rhode Island generates over $3 million monthly from sports wagering, and the industry continues to thrive. Since Rhode Island sports betting was legalized, there have been several updates to the legislation to keep aligned with modern technological and social developments.
It’s, therefore, reasonable to assume that the notoriously progressive and liberal state will continue to revisit and update its legislation towards sports gambling. Such amendments can only benefit the state, as is already evident about the rollout of remote registration. Since that amended legislation, the Rhode Island sports betting market has flourished even more.
The legalization of mobile sports betting so soon after the initial change in the law serves as another reminder of how keen Rhode Island lawmakers are to keep up to date and embrace change.
While Rhode Island sports betting enthusiasts are currently entirely restricted in terms of choice, the state will likely aim to address this and allow other sportsbooks to open and operate sometime in the future. Looking at other US states that have legalized sports betting, the typical strategy is to start small and expand outwards.
For instance, many states begin by offering the first legal sportsbooks at the local casinos before branching out and exploring online options. Rhode Island has followed that same narrative but seems to be doing so faster. It is, therefore, reasonable to assume that the Ocean State will only look to further enhance its online sports betting options.
Whether these arrive in the form of better promotions and bonuses at the currently existing online sportsbooks or via the introduction of new ones remains to be seen. Furthermore, it’s highly conceivable that Rhode Island will consider legalizing betting on collegiate sports to keep its gamblers happy.
Undoubtedly, the future of sports gambling in Rhode Island is bright, and it will be exciting to see what the next few years bring for the state’s betting fans.