Rhode Island Betting

Mobile sports betting and retail sportsbooks are legal in Rhode Island. The Rhode Island lottery operates retail sportsbooks at the state’s two casinos and offers statewide mobile betting through Sportsbook Rhode Island.

Rhode Island sports betting rules originally required fans to visit a casino in-person to register for a mobile betting account, but lawmakers passed additional legislation in 2020 to end the in-person registration requirement. Now, customers 21 or older may complete registration from anywhere within state lines.

Online horse racing betting and daily fantasy sports are also permitted in Rhode Island. The state has never passed legislation to formally legalize online racing betting or DFS, but operators in both industries operate openly in Rhode Island and have never been asked to cease operations.

Each of the following gaming sites is permitted to offer real money wagers to state residents. Legal online and mobile betting options in Rhode Island include a lottery-run sports betting site and its associated mobile app, fantasy sports sites and horse racing betting.

How Rhode Island Legalized Sports Betting

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo and some lawmakers began the process of legalizing sports betting in Rhode Island through a budgetary measure proposed in 2018. The 2019 state budget unveiled in January of 2018 included a surprise: the budget included $23.5 million in new tax revenue collected from sports betting. That item raised a few eyebrows because sports betting wasn’t even legal in Rhode Island at the time.

It turns out Governor Raimondo was banking on a piece of legislation introduced by Senate President Dominick Ruggerio at around the same time the budget came out. Senate Bill 2045 proposed authorizing state-operated sports wagering at the Twin River and Tiverton facilities if federal legislation or a court decision puts an end to the law prohibiting states such as Rhode Island from regulating sports betting.

The bill did not delve too deeply into the details of sports betting beyond naming the two casinos where it would take place and prohibiting wagers on Rhode Island college teams. As far as other regulations and oversight go, the bill left those responsibilities with the Division of Lotteries.

The Rhode Island constitution requires voters to approve of any gambling expansion, but the legislation Ruggerio’s bill explained that sports betting was approved by voters in a 2012 referendum asking if facilities in Lincoln and Tiverton should be allowed to offer gambling, including Class III gaming (which includes sports betting). Voters approved the measure, so presumably lawmakers can pass sports betting legislation.

Ultimately, new legislation was not needed to bring legal sports betting to Rhode Island. The state legislature approved the fiscal 2019 budget complete with language to legalize sports betting. Governor Raimondo signed off on the budget in June of 2018 to formally legalize sports betting.

How Online Betting Was Legalized

Senate President Dominick Ruggerio introduced mobile sports betting legislation in January 2019 with bill S 0037. The Senate approved the bill the following month, and it subsequently received approval in the House before being signed into law by Governor Raimondo in March.

The RI mobile betting law was somewhat limited in two key aspects. For one, the two Twin River casinos were given a monopoly over mobile betting and already have agreements in place with IGT and William Hill. This most likely means there will be no DraftKings or FanDuel sportsbooks in RI any time soon.

Secondly, the law originally required in-person registration. Rhode Islanders wanting to bet online were required to visit one of the two casinos in-person to sign up for an account before being able to place bets online from anywhere in the state. However, lawmakers passed new legislation in 2020 to amend the law and permit remote registration.

Fantasy Sports in Rhode Island

Rhode Island has yet to pass legislation addressing fantasy sports one way or another. Although lawmakers have expressed an interest in doing so, no bills have been proposed due to a bit of an interesting situation in the state.

In 2016, Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin looked into the fantasy sports issue to decide if the activity was legal under current gaming laws. He came back with the opinion that yes, fantasy sports sites are legal, but he also encouraged lawmakers to enact legislation to regulate and tax the industry.

Just as lawmakers began to do exactly that, the Rhode Island Lottery came back with a different opinion: daily fantasy sports contests meet the state’s definition of “gambling” regardless of whether the activity is a game of skill or chance.

The Rhode Island Lottery took it one step further by adding that not only are DFS contests illegal gambling, but any attempts by lawmakers to regulate the industry would violate the state constitution. This statement directly contradicted the Attorney General’s previous opinion, but it was enough to cause lawmakers to back off their attempts to pass fantasy sports legislation.

Since then, no new legislation addressing fantasy sports has been introduced. DFS sites continue to operate in Rhode Island to this day thanks to the AG’s earlier opinion. This status quo is most likely to continue until either a new AG takes office and issues a different opinion or the state lottery revises its opinion. In the meantime, sports fans can feel free to enjoy their DFS games.

Horse Racing Betting in Rhode Island

The Rhode Island horse racing industry is all but dead today with no active racetracks. However, both casinos do offer fully functional racebooks with simulcasting and wagering offered on most days.

As far as live racing goes, Rhode Islanders will have to make a trip out of state to watch and wager in person. Narragansett Park opened in 1934 and once operated as the most profitable racetrack in the country. Lincoln Downs opened in 1947 to further expand the state’s horse racing options, but both tracks would run their last horse races in the 1970s.

Today, in-person wagering is limited to the racebooks at each of the two Rhode Island casinos:

Online Horse Racing Betting in RI

The major horse racing betting sites also offer mobile betting to customers across the state. You can see our recommendations near the top of this page.

Rhode Island law does not explicitly authorize advance deposit wagering, but authorities have never made any indications they plan to ask mainstream horse racing betting sites to cease and desist.

Is betting on the Kentucky Derby legal in Rhode Island?

Yes, residents of Rhode Island can bet on the Kentucky Derby (and all Triple Crown races) by using any licensed horse racing betting site or mobile app: TVG, Twinspires, or Amwager are our top recommendations.

Both of the states casinos offer simulcast wagering for those who prefer to bet in person.

Rhode Island Online Lottery

The Rhode Island Lottery was established in 1974 to generate revenue for the state and has raised billions for the state’s General Fund since. Today, the RI Lottery sells instant win scratch cards, pull-tabs, keno tickets and tickets to several draw games:

  • Wild Money (three drawings per week; progressive jackpot)
  • The Numbers (twice daily drawing; win up to $25,000)
  • Powerball
  • Mega Millions
  • Lucky for Life

Additionally, the RI Lottery operates video lottery terminals, table games, stadium gaming and sports betting at the state’s two casinos as well as online sports betting through SportsBetRhodeIsland.com.

The Rhode Island Lottery took its games online in early 2020 with the launch of iLottery. Players 18 and older can download the official RI Online Lottery app to play games online or visit RILot.com to sign up for an account.

Currently, Rhode Island iLottery offers instant win games and keno in the same formats offered in-person at retailers. Prizes under $600 are automatically credited to players’ accounts and can be withdrawn electronically. Prizes of $600 or greater must be claimed in person at the RI Lottery headquarters.

Players must be 18 or older and physically located within Rhode Island to play online and make deposits but do not need to be residents.

RI Gambling Law

Rhode Island’s gambling laws prohibit most forms of gambling and poker other than activities that take place at land-based casinos, racetracks and charitable organizations. The majority of the statutes that apply to gaming target the operators and not the players.

One provision that does apply to players is § 11-19-21:

Every person who shall frequent any gambling house or place where gaming is practiced or carried on, not in the performance of official duty and not being the landlord of that place entering to view the premises, shall be imprisoned not exceeding thirty (30) days.

It is unclear if this law could be construed to apply to visiting unlicensed offshore casinos and poker sites. However, the state would have to pass new legislation to authorize the launch of regulated online gambling operations. Currently, there are no efforts underway to legalize online gambling in Rhode Island.

Other laws enforce more severe penalties for being involved in the organization of unlawful gambling. § 11-19-1 of the State Statutes makes it a Class C felony to promote or be involved in the operation of an unlawful gambling enterprise. The punishment for a conviction under this law results in up to 2 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $2,000.

Here’s the full text of that section:

Every person who shall, directly or indirectly, set up, put forth, carry on, promote, or draw, publicly or privately, any lottery, chance, game, or device of any nature or kind whatsoever, or by whatsoever name it may be called, for the purpose of exposing, setting for sale or disposing of any money, houses, lands, merchandise, or articles of value, or shall sell or expose to sale lottery policies, purporting to be governed by the drawing of any public or private lottery, or shall sign or endorse any book, document, or paper whatsoever, for the purpose of enabling others to sell, or expose to sale, lottery policies, except as authorized in this chapter and in title 41 and chapters 61 and 61.2 of title 42, shall be deemed guilty of a felony and shall be imprisoned not exceeding two (2) years or be fined not exceeding two thousand dollars ($2,000).

Furthermore, § 11-19-20 makes it a crime to “induce others to visit a gambling place.” The exact implication of this law is unclear but it provides for a $500 fine and up to one year in prison to anyone who induces, entices or persuades any person to visit any house, room or other place kept for the purpose of gambling.

None of Rhode Island’s state statutes specifically address online gambling but the law does enforce a blanket ban of anything not authorized by the state.

Leave a Reply