Rhode Island Sports Betting Handle Just Hit a 3-Year Low

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Dec 19, 2023 07:00 PM
Rhode Island Sports Betting Handle Just Hit a 3-Year Low

Are times getting tough for the Rhode Island sports betting market? This is the question the state is left to ask following the latest revenue reports.

The Ocean State recently released its earning figures for July 2023. (These reports are always roughly one month behind the current time.) The results were not pretty. In fact, the July handle represents a three-year low for sports betting in Rhode Island. Here’s Robert Fletcher of iGaming with more details:

“The figure was 19.8 percent down from $25.2 million in July 2022 and 14.8 percent lower than $23.7 million in June of this year. It was also the shortest monthly spend since July 2020 when $6.7 million was bet by players. In terms of revenue, $1.9 million was generated in Rhode Island in July. This was 34.5 percent behind $2.9 million in 2022 but marginally ahead of $1.8 million in June.Of this total, $1.5 million came from online betting, while retail’s share totalled $293,397. Twin River generated $298,879 in betting revenue but Tiverton Casino posted a $5,482 loss, bringing the total slightly down.

Certain industry experts don’t see cause for concern based on these returns. The summer months can be a fickle beast for North American sports betting. Wagering on the NBA, NHL and NFL is fairly dormant, and the June, July and August months represent the dog days of the Major League Baseball season. Revenue reports are subject to less flattering returns. 

Still, it would be unwise to just write off the decline in Rhode Island sports betting revenue as just a blip on the radar. The state didn’t just fail to match totals relative to other months. Their sports gambling earnings are down year-over-year, as well. So while they may have been navigating a slower part of the sports betting calendar, they ended up missing the mark even by those adjusted standards. And so, this brings us back to the opening question: Are times getting tough for the Rhode Island sports betting market?

The Expansion of Legal Gaming is Starting to Challenge the Rhode Island Sports Betting Market

For a long time, Rhode Island was among the few states that offered legal sports betting. The United States Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Betting Act back in May 2018. Retail sports betting in Rhode Island went live that same month. Soon after that, residents were allowed to bet with the best online sportsbooks in the United States, right around November 2018.

Fast forward roughly a half-decade, and Rhode Island is no longer in the minority. At this writing, 33 states as well as Washington, D.C. offer some form of legal sports betting. The number of states with legal online sports betting is noticeably smaller, but overall, USA residents have never enjoyed easier access to wagering. That increase in convenience is starting to squeeze smaller markets who were at one time benefiting from the business of bettors in other states.

For Rhode Island, specifically, the legalization of sports betting in New York has served as a sizable hit to their revenue model. The Empire State is among those that border The Ocean State. When New Yorkers weren’t allowed to bet on sports inside their own state, they would take their business to Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and, most notably, Rhode Island. But they no longer have to jump through those hoops. New York legalized retail and online sports betting in January 2022. Since then, The Empire State has generated more sports betting revenue than any other state in the country. So while Rhode Island wasn’t getting all of that money in the first place, they were enjoying a meaningful bump from New Yorkers looking to wager on sports. 

Could the Legalization of iGaming Help Put Rhode Island Sports Wagering Revenue Back on Track?

With one of their largest revenue sources now largely gone, Rhode Island may need to get creative if they’re going to restore their gambling earnings to previous levels. The legalization of iGaming might hold the answer.

Confused? You’re not alone. Many don’t understand the difference between online sports betting and iGaming. However, iGaming refers to virtual casino games, such as slots and table contests. Online sports betting, meanwhile, incorporates solely real-world events. 

In the wake of sports betting revenue dips, Rhode Island is preparing to allow iGaming sometime in the next year. Governor Dan McKee signed Bill 948 into law this past June. Rhode Island is now expected to roll out iGaming services by March 2024. 

“This legislation provides an added convenience to Rhode Islanders who would like to play the existing table games offered at Twin River via their mobile devices,” said Senate President Dominick Ruggerio in a press release. “It helps ensure the continued strength of the state facilities in the competitive regional gaming market, and in so doing protects an important revenue stream that provides funding for vital state programs and investments.”

Granted, it remains to be seen how much of a difference the introduction of iGaming will make. Ballys currently has a “land-based casino monopoly” in Rhode Island. That exclusivity will reportedly extend to iGaming. Their online subsidiary, Gamesys, will be the sole online iGaming operator in the state.

Perhaps opening this additional gaming option will be enough to nudge up Rhode Island’s slumping gambling revenue. If it’s not, though, the state may want to consider expanding the number of operators they allow in the region. Would that entail increased commercialization of casinos and iGaming? Would it consist of increasing the number of licensed online sportsbook operators? How about both? The answer isn’t clear. And that’s fitting, really. Because the overarching trajectory of gaming in Rhode Island isn’t all that clear, either.

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Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

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