Sep 4, 2019 at 3:13 PM Sep 4, 2019 at 8:59 PM
Rhode Island seeks a boost from sports betting in part to offset the loss of table-game and slot-machine revenue to new casinos in Massachusetts. Twin River has blamed the new Encore Boston Harbor in Everett, Massachusetts, for a big chunk of the 34% drop in its table-games profits in July.
LINCOLN — Faced with growing competition for New England gamblers’ money, Rhode Island launched online sports betting Wednesday afternoon.
The Sportsbook Rhode Island mobile app went live around 3 p.m., and minutes later workers at Twin River Casino in Lincoln began activating the accounts of gamblers who downloaded the software.
It took a few extra minutes to register the first person in line as Twin River employees familiarized themselves with the online system provided by lottery technology contractor International Game Technology. But things appeared to move more smoothly after that.
“It is an important milestone for the lottery. We are starting before the [National Football League] season as promised,” said Rhode Island Lottery spokesman Paul Grimaldi. “We know this is something people want, and we expect it to be a popular option.”
The state takes 51% of what gamblers lose on sports bets and has budgeted $22.7 million in revenue from sports betting between now and June 30, 2020. A full year of sports betting in fiscal 2020-2021 is expected to generate $26.3 million for the state, $20.7 million of that from online bets.
Rhode Island seeks a boost from sports betting in part to offset the loss of table-game and slot-machine revenue to new casinos in Massachusetts. Twin River has blamed the new Encore Boston Harbor casino in Everett, Massachusetts, for a big chunk of the 34% drop in its table-games profits in July.
Although gamblers can now place a bet from anywhere in Rhode Island on a phone or computer, the state requires them to trek to Twin River to show a photo ID and activate their mobile accounts in person, primarily for security reasons.
Eventually, gamblers will also be able to activate their accounts at Twin River Casino in Tiverton, but that is still several days away, Grimaldi said.
The Tiverton casino, which opened last year, was built less than a mile from the Massachusetts border to draw Bay State gamblers, but that proximity is posing technical issues with the “geo-fencing” system that prevents people from placing wagers on the Rhode Island app from outside the state. The lottery says customers may have problems with the app, depending on their phone, if they are within 200 meters of the state border.
To make sure the mobile app works well throughout the Twin River Tiverton property, additional equipment, including a device called a beacon, is being brought in.
Neither Massachusetts nor Connecticut have legalized sports betting, and many of Twin River’s sports betting customers have come from those neighboring states, Joe Franklin, Twin River regional executive director of cage operations, said Wednesday.
To prevent long waits for customers activating their account before the first NFL games of the season, Twin River brought in extra staff, Franklin said, although he declined to say how many.
Is Twin River worried that eventually gamblers will bet from their couch — or wherever — instead of heading to the casino?
“I truly believe you have to be here for the experience of the game, the crowd,” Franklin said from the Sportsbook Bar and Grill, where 100 televisions surround the tables and betting windows fill a wall.
Meanwhile, hours before lottery officials gave the go-ahead for online betting, lawyers for the state, Twin River and IGT made their case in Superior Court to throw out a Republican-backed lawsuit that would halt all sports gambling in Rhode Island.
The suit, brought by former GOP Providence mayoral candidate Daniel Harrop, argues that the state Constitution required voter approval (statewide and independently in Lincoln and Tiverton) for the legalization of sports betting.
The state and its gambling partners argue that Harrop, who lives in Portsmouth and is not an opponent of gambling, has no standing to bring the case.
On the other side, Joe Larisa Jr., a former state chief legal counsel, said even if Harrop lacks standing, the case qualifies for an exception for significant public interest, and the Town of Tiverton, which gets $100,000 a year from sports betting, wants the case decided on the merits.
Questions from Judge Brian Stern to both sets of lawyer centered on when public interest should override questions of standing and where this case fits into that calculation.
He said he expects to rule on the state’s motion to dismiss early next week.
How to set up sports betting on a mobile device
– Go to Apple or Android app stores and search for Sportsbook Rhode Island (or Rhode Island Sports Book)
– Download the app
– Enter personal information to create an account, including email, address, phone number and last four digits of your Social Security number
– Create password
– Enable location tracking (can be for this app only)
– Log onto email account and open email from app
– Hit the activation link in the email
– Go to Twin River Casino in Lincoln (Tiverton coming soon)
– Go to Players Club on second floor and the sports betting counter
– Show valid state photo ID to staff, who will activate your account
– Link your account to a bank or debit card and fill it with money you intend to wager
– Place your bet
To sign up on a personal computer
– Go to http://www.sportsbetri.com/
– Create an account following the same steps and go to Twin River to have it activated
– There are laptops in the Sportsbook Bar and Grill that can be used to create an account