A proposed legislative change that would enable players in Rhode Island to sign up for sports betting accounts remotely has been approved by the State Legislature.
An amendment to House Bill 8097 (HB 8097) was introduced last month, in an attempt to revive the state’s sports betting market and also help with economic recovery.
Since mobile wagering was introduced last year, users have had to create an account at a land-based venue before being allowed to bet digitally.
If HB 8097’s proposed amendment is signed off by Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, players will still have their location checked when betting to ensure they’re within state boundaries.
Rhode Island sports betting registration close to becoming easier for players
Earlier this month, Representatives Nicholas Mattiello and Marvin Abney introduced a suggested change to the state’s sports betting laws. The proposal was far from complex – it just involved slightly tweaking the language related to what an “online gaming account” is.
At the moment, online gaming accounts in Little Rhody are defined as being created “in-person on the premises of a hosting facility”. However, Mattiello and Abney want to change this to one which a “patron shall use for the deposit and withdrawal of funds used for online sports wagering”.
The amendment was approved by the Rhode Island General Assembly last Thursday (June 16th), before the Senate gave it the green light on the same day. One day later, it was passed on to Raimondo for her to sign the changes into law.
New sports betting sign-ups were impossible for a while
Players in Rhode Island can begin the registration process for a sports betting account remotely, but must complete it in person. This has to be completed at the Twin River Casino in Tiverton.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, casinos in Rhode Island were forced to close their doors from March until June. Because of this, those who did not already have sports betting accounts were unable to wager (not that there was much to bet on anyway, with almost every major sporting event canceled).
In-person sign-ups have been a needless burden on Rhode Island’s sports betting industry
The need for players to complete their sports betting accounts in-person has created obvious and needless boundaries. Although Rhode Island is small, it still takes time and effort to drive to a casino and register.
As well as the logistical challenges, COVID-19 has highlighted the monetary issues that can come with not letting players register remotely. In both New Jersey and Pennsylvania, players can create an account and bet without needing to go to a land-based operator. Thus, the two states still had some form of revenue and the possibility of attracting new players during the period of retail inactivity – even if this was lower than usual. And while sports betting is permitted via mobile in Rhode Island, only those with existing accounts could wager.
In May 2020, Rhode Island’s sports betting revenue plummeted by 71.6% year-on-year. Operators made $163,472, compared to $574,403 in May 2019. Players also wagered much less than they had in the same month last year. This May’s sports betting handle in Rhode Island totaled $1.5 million, down from $14.6 million in May 2019.