For many, the 2023 World Series of Poker is the “only game in town” right now. But there is other news going on in the world of gaming. Last week, in a move that was predicted earlier this year on Poker News Daily, Rhode Island moved one step closer to passing regulations regarding online casinos.

Bipartisan Support in Senate for Online Casino Gaming

The Rhode Island Senate, during their session on Thursday, approved the new bill, SB 948, with an overwhelming bipartisan majority. The vote came down 30-4, but it wasn’t without some drama along the way. Some changes were requested by the committee overseeing the bill’s submission to bring it in line with the Rhode Island Constitution.

One of the sticking points, surprisingly, was the factor that table games were not live. The Senate Special Legislation and Veterans Affairs Committee requested that live dealers – in which a live person deals the game via closed-circuit cameras and studios – perform the activities instead of a computer algorithm. This was a change that was suggested by the Rhode Island Lottery, which will be responsible for oversight of the new industry.

A couple of other areas were also changed before the legislation could move forward. The minimum age for players was raised from 18 to 21 and taxation was adjusted. Instead of charging 50% in taxes on online slot revenues, the take was increased to 61%. For table games, however, there was a reduction in tax rates, from 18% to 15.5%.

A Bright Spot in an Otherwise Bleak 2023

The passage of the legislation in Rhode Island is the first good news that online casino gaming has received of late.

Other states, such as New York, Indiana, Illinois, and others, have decided against moving forward with online gaming regulations. In these areas, it is unknown why they are having issues with online casino gaming; there are already casinos in the states that would be more than equipped to handle such activities.

The passage of SB 948 in Rhode Island still has the potential to fall through, however. The Senate bill must have companion legislation in the House to be considered – or the House can pass the Senate’s bill through their body – but so far, the House has not decided to act. There is also potential for the House to pass a bill that is not compatible with the Senate’s version, and they would have to be reconciled.

It is also not clear what stance that Governor Dan McKee would take on the issue of online casino gaming. IGT and Bally’s, the two casino organizations that operate in Rhode Island, signed a no-compete deal for gaming operations in Rhode Island with McKee, but McKee has been mum on further expansion. It is thought that these two entities, under the regulatory arm of the Rhode Island Lottery, would be the operations that would offer internet casino gaming.

There is still a great deal of work to be done regarding online casino gaming’s passage in Rhode Island, but an important first step has occurred. Now it is up to the House and, eventually, Governor McKee as to whether the state joins the roster of those states that have already passed online casino gaming and/or poker in some form.

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