Bally’s Corp. and IGT, two major gaming companies based in America’s smallest but most densely populated state, had a chance to unveil their plan for online casino gaming in Rhode Island, but not everyone involved in steering the local gaming economy seemed happy with the proposed one prospect.
IGT is well known to most experienced US casino players, but not everyone is aware of the fact that the Las Vegas-based company is owned by Yes Redd was acquired and merged with the world’s largest lottery operator GTECH, a company that would post more than $4 billion in revenue by 2022, or with Bally’s, as we know, it’s not the Bally’s they knew a decade ago. This company was formed from Twin Rivers (Rhode Island’s exclusive video lottery terminal casino games provider headquartered in Lincoln And Tiverton) and relatively recently acquired the Bally name from Caesar.
The rejection comes from perhaps the most unlikely source – the Rhode Island State Lottery (RILOT). According to the draft lawRILOT would have full control over nearly every aspect of the state-planned online casino gambling market, from setting game rules to the terms and conditions and all regulatory duties normally associated with casino gambling. The servers themselves would be located at one or both of Bally’s land-based casinos in the state.
IGT provides technology and machinery to Bally’s to operate its lottery casinos and sports betting applications in the state.
The will of the people
Casino games and the expansion of gambling in the state were allowed by a voter referendum under the state constitution, which now states:
“No law expanding the types or locations of gambling permitted within the state or within a city will go into effect until passed by a majority of voters voting in a statewide referendum and by a majority of voters who vote in this referendum in the community, is accepted in which the proposed game would be allowed.”
Furcolo said (format – source article): “While the Rhode Island Lottery believes there is a legislative path to approving iGaming and supports iGaming, the Lottery maintains that the bill – as drafted – is likely unconstitutional and should be revised to allow for approval in the to comply with the 2012 and 2016 electoral referendums on casino gambling.”
IGT is the exclusive provider for Rhode Island of lottery solutions such as traditional lottery, instant ticket, video lottery terminals (“casino slots”) and internet lottery games in the state.
The company’s lottery contract is recently extended to 2043, This grants IGT the exclusive right to provide those games and services while 20 more years.
Most recently, Bally’s was approved by RILOT to continue its exclusive sportsbook sourcing in the state in conjunction with and utilizing IGT technologies for three years.
More than constitutional issues?
According to a Providence Journal report, one of the issues raised in a Senate hearing was monopoly, as the legislation under consideration would not allow a bid for an online casino license. The proposed legislation was prepared by Bally’s Corp, IGT or one of the consortium’s affiliates and submitted to the state legislatures.
Another issue that has come to the fore is the ability of 18-year-olds to act as “player substitutes” or stand-ins for other, even younger, high-school-age residents.
Rhode Island teenagers Persons over the age of 18 are currently prohibited buy or use alcohol, cigarettes either recreational marijuana – but they are allows sports betting. The Providence Journal article states: “
Understanding what is “really” being said in the Rhode Island media is not always easy, given the state’s antiquated but fully democratic Republican-style government, but also a labyrinthine political system that is impossible for outsiders to understand to navigate, and a story of less palatable characters dominating many power elements in the state. If these nuances, as well as other things about America’s oldest state, are not understood by readers, the media may mistakenly assume that readers outside the state know what certain references mean.
A featured example is a statement by former Senator John Tassoni Wednesday night while speaking in his capacity as a member of the Congressional executive committee Rhode Island Council on Problem Gambling. He told a Senate committee: “They were called “10 percent” on Federal Hill.”It is about 18-year-olds who give younger children access to online gambling.
The former senator’s office was closed on Sunday at the time of writing, so we were unable to contact him for clarification. We have found no history of the “obvious” assumption that teenagers “make the numbers” for the bookmakers, or any other conjecture about the nefarious nature that “teen percent teenage” would represent.
An excerpt from RI history for context world atlas:
On May 4, 1776, Rhode Island was the first colony to renounce its allegiance to Britain and declare independence. However, Rhode Island was the last state to ratify the United States Constitution. He finally succeeded on May 29, 1790..
Readers can make theirs own research on Federal Hill and its history to make a personal guess at the former Senator’s reference. A cursory search turned up no evidence of gambling for our researchers.
Former senator is not alone in his worries
Rhode Island lottery director Mark Furcolo warned that the Senate bill (S948) “probably unconstitutional”as it is currently written. The Journal claims that even if this issue is fixed, iGaming will “likely” cannibalize government revenue from existing lottery offerings. However, Bally’s has addressed this issue in one Spectrum Gaming Review before announcing the new legislation at a Chamber of Commerce dinner a few months ago.
To the casual observer it seems that part of it “Noise” rising against the casino bill come from competitorsas is understandably the case in a capitalist system that is meant to be fair and free from monopolization.
A spokesman reportedly said Sports Betting Alliance (a coalition that includes BetMGM, DraftKings and FanDuel) asked why Rhode Island could join Delaware as only state in the Union “Their residents would be limited to just one option in iGaming.”
Spokesperson Jon Mandel continued: “The result will not differ from mobile sports betting.” relates to RILOT/Bally’s recent three-year contract extension.
“Residents will continue to use the illegal market;
Is $210 million a year in new revenue enough?
Mandelas allegedly backed his argument by citing statistics from the first month neighboring Massachusetts opened online sports betting in that state, starting March 10, 2023.
Mandalas said: “GeoComply identified 1,761 instances where a Rhode Island resident first attempted to access a Massachusetts sportsbook application in Rhode Island, then traveled to Massachusetts and successfully logged into an application.”
The Sports Betting Alliance argues: “Multiple iGaming operators generate significantly more tax revenue for the state than if the state grants a monopoly to one company.”
According to his analysis and Spectrum Gaming’s report, which was filed with the bill in February this year, Bally’s measure, as written, is expected to generate about $210 million a year in the treasury.
Spring: Online gambling could bring in $210 million in revenue. Why is the Rhode Island Lottery pushing back?Providence Journal, May 12, 2023