RI Governor Signs Bill Ending In-Person Registration Requirement For Online Betting

Posted on July 27, 2020 - Last Updated on July 29, 2020

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo gave the latest sports betting bill her approval, just a few days after the legislature sent it to her desk. With her signature, in-person registration is no longer required for Rhode Island online sports betting.

Soon, residents of and visitors to the state will be able to complete their account registration online. The move should signal the folly of such provisions to other jurisdictions.

The latest on the status of Rhode Island sports betting

The law takes effect immediately. That doesn’t mean the online registration process is ready to go, however. The betting platform run by IGT for the Rhode Island Lottery needs time to make the shift.

Estimates state the new online-only registration portal should be operative within a month. At that time, no one in the state will have to visit one of the state’s two casinos to wager online anymore.

Proponents of in-person registration in the original sports betting law stressed it would provide for greater compliance and security. By forcing people to register in-person, they argued the state could ensure no underage or otherwise ineligible bettors would gain access to the online sportsbook.

If anything, it was successful at keeping people from gambling. The Rhode Island Lottery stated that only 45% of the people who downloaded the app actually completed the process. The Rhode Island Dept. of Revenue said over 14,000 people began the process but never finished it.

That, in turn, led to deflated handle. Since September 2019, the state has seen just $46.2 million in wagers, with about $3.5 million in aggregate revenue.

Will Rhode Island become a sports wagering hot spot now?

That small handle was despite the Twin River Casinos sitting about an hour’s drive from Boston. Despite the lack of any legal sportsbooks in Massachusetts, Bostonians did not flock to register their accounts.

That may change once the new registration is available. Massachusetts is currently moving to legalize sports betting once again, but even if successful, it will be some time before online sportsbooks actually start operating in the state.

The other state bordering Rhode Island, Connecticut, also has no legal sportsbooks as of now. Fortunately for the Rhode Island Lottery, there has been no movement to change that situation either.

Pulling revenue from citizens of other states could help the state deal with a projected $234.6 million budget deficit. To what extent that happens will partially depend on the progress of major North American sporting events, however.

It took almost a year, but Rhode Island has set itself up to get a maximum benefit from legal sports betting. It may not be long until the state becomes the sports wagering capital of New England.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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