Rhode Island Eyes Sports Betting In Wake of SCOTUS Case

Written By Steve Ruddock on December 19, 2017 - Last Updated on January 31, 2023
Rhode Island capitol

Rhode Island State Senator William Conley is paying close attention to the New Jersey sports betting case. The Supreme Court of the United States should have a decision on the case sometime in 2018.

In an interview with WPRI, Sen. Conley, the chair of the RI Senate Finance Committee, was asked if online gambling would land on the  legislature’s radar should New Jersey prevail in the case.

“Absolutely, I do think that the Senate president thinks that that’s something that we should look at seriously, and that it will bring in revenue,” Conley said.

He went on to say that such legislation could be passed as early as 2018.

What do you mean by online gambling?

Before Rhode Islanders get too excited, Conley’s comments aren’t so clear-cut.

The brevity of the interview and use of the term “online gambling” in conjunction with the New Jersey sports betting case makes it difficult to discern the context of the interview.

It’s unclear if Conley and the interviewer are simply mislabeling the case as an issue of online gambling. It is also possible they are not up to speed on what the case is about and are conflating the two issues.

If it’s the former, Conley is open to passing legislation that would allow Rhode Island to offer sports betting online.

If it’s the latter, the Senate Finance Committee Chair is open to online gambling and/or sports betting. He is simply unaware that one doesn’t require a New Jersey sports betting win.

RI doesn’t need an NJ win to offer online gaming

Rhode Island, and any other state in fact, has the authority to legalize online casino and poker games thanks to a 2011 Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel opinion.

Four states already used the 2011 OLC opinion to do just that:

  • Nevada
  • Delaware
  • New Jersey
  • Pennsylvania

Additionally, six states used the OLC opinion to legalize online lottery:

  • Illinois
  • Georgia
  • Michigan
  • Kentucky
  • New Hampshire
  • Pennsylvania

Is RI a real contender?

Rhode Island is on PlayUSA’s not-so-short-list of online gaming contenders.

That said, it takes time to get lawmakers up to speed. If Conley’s ambiguous comments are any indication, it would be harried effort to pass anything in 2018.

The best-case scenario would be if multiple New England states continue their game of keeping up with the Jones’s, in what has become a hyper-competitive gaming market. Those states are:

  • Connecticut
  • Massachusetts
  • Rhode Island
  • New Hampshire
  • Maine

Land-based casinos are sprouting up across the region. With saturation pretty much complete, it appears these states are now turning their attention online.

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Steve Ruddock

Steve Ruddock is a veteran of the poker media, contributing to offline and online publications centered on the regulated US online gambling industry. These include OnlinePokerReport.com, PlayNJ.com, USPoker.com as well as USA Today. Steve is based in Massachusetts and is also a poker player.

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