The Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments in the New Jersey sports betting case back in December. The court could issue its ruling as soon as March or as late as June. Nonetheless, a growing number of states are already preparing in the event of a favorable ruling.
Rhode Island is one of several states that seem to believe the outcome of the case is a foregone conclusion. The state appears to be fast-tracking sports betting legislation.
It’s widely believed that New Jersey is a favorite to prevail. That is an outcome that could open up legal sports betting across the US. However, it’s not the lock some would like you to believe.
Where there’s smoke there’s fire
The first inkling that sports betting was on Rhode Island’s radar occurred during a local television interview with State Senator William Conley in December.
“Absolutely, I do think that the Senate president thinks that that’s [sports betting/online gambling] something that we should look at seriously, and that it will bring in revenue,” Conley said.
GoLocal later reported that Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo already conducted polling on sports betting/online gambling:
“Online Gambling — Watch for the emergence of online gambling. It is in place in New Jersey and is being seen as a possible solution to the budget whole. Sources tell GoLocal that [Rhode Island Governor Gina] Raimondo polled the issue and that the public likes the expansion of gaming over marijuana.”
And now, Rhode Island has a sports betting bill, and a Governor that seems very open to the idea.
Five members of the Rhode Island State Senate introduced a bill, S 2045, that would authorize sports betting at the Twin River and Tiverton casinos. According to the Providence Journal, a voter referendum would not be needed if sports betting is limited to the state’s existing gaming establishments.
The bill summary reads:
“This act would authorize state-operated sports wagering to be offered by the Twin River and Tiverton gaming facilities based upon passage of statewide referenda approving casino gaming at Twin River in 2012 and Tiverton in 2016 to become effective when federal law is enacted, repealed or the U.S. Supreme Court affirms state authority to regulate sports wagering.
“This act would provide that sports wagering shall be operated through the division of lotteries in the Twin River and Tiverton gaming facilities and would prohibit sports wagering on any collegiate sports/athletic event within the state or any such sports/athletic event outside the state involving any state college team.
“This act would take effect upon passage.”
In addition to the bill, Raimondo has gone so far as to include $23.5 million of nonessential revenue from sports betting in her budget.
Rhode Island’s budget woes
As Play MA has reported, Rhode Island is facing a $60 million shortfall for the current fiscal year. Additionally, the deficit is projected to jump to more than $230 million in the upcoming fiscal year.
Revenue from sports betting, and possibly online gambling, would go a long way towards plugging the budget shortfall.