One of the parlor games that the gaming industry likes to play is “Which state will be the next to pass online gaming regulations?” Of course, there are the usual suspects – California, Texas, and Florida, to name a few – but there is one state lurking out there that has escaped notice…that is until last week. The operator of casinos in this tiny state is making overtures towards the state’s government to allow for it to be the purveyor of online gaming in the state, and the legislature is interested to see what they have to offer.
Casino Operator Would Earn Exclusive Rights to Online Gaming
As Patrick Anderson of the Providence Journal reported, Bally’s is looking to be the one who will take over if online casino gaming is offered in Rhode Island. Bally’s already is the selected outlet for the two physical casinos in the state (they were formerly known as Twin Rivers), but the action to become the only online gaming option is something that the company sees as critically important. “We see this as a vital step to secure our competitive advantage and ensure critical revenue to the state,” Anderson quotes Bally’s Senior Vice President Craig Eaton as saying during a meeting with the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce.
“We can’t sit still (with only physical casinos), and we need to meet our customers where they are,” Eaton is reported as saying in the meeting.
The company is looking to introduce legislation within the next week that will put forth its plans for online gaming in the state. Everything would be available for customers, including online table games, blackjack, and poker, and sports betting would be included in the mix. What isn’t as readily known is what the nuts and bolts – the numbers on taxation – would be for the new endeavor.
Anderson says that Eaton estimates that online gaming revenues in the Plantation State could generate $120 million in five years. Perhaps most importantly, the introduction of full casino online gaming into the state’s gaming options (the Rhode Island Lottery already offers online Keno and other games) could prevent Rhode Islanders from going to surrounding states for online gaming. Connecticut and Massachusetts, two neighboring states, have already authorized online gaming.
Legislators Interested but Concerned
There is some interest in the expansion of gaming for some of the members of the Rhode Island General Assembly.
The President of the Senate, Dominick Ruggerio, has asked for Bally’s to put together a proposal, while House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi admits he doesn’t know much about the issue but would be willing to entertain the proposal. Both men made their opinions known in comments to Anderson.
“I know it’s going to be a revenue generator,” Ruggerio commented to Anderson. “It’ll be convenient for people – they don’t have to go (to the casinos), they can stay at home.” Shekarchi, however, is a bit concerned that Rhode Island is, for lack of a better way to put it, gambling too much on gaming to fill the state’s coffers.
“It’s always a concern,” Anderson quotes Shekarchi as saying. “It is something we look at, we balance…but are neighboring states going to do it? Are the Indian casinos in Connecticut going to do it? Is Wynn going to do it in Massachusetts? Are we going to be left behind?” It bears watching to see just how aggressively the Rhode Island General Assembly approaches giving their citizens more gaming outlets or not.