The Rhode Island Senate has given its nod to online casino gaming. Will this be the winning hand in 2023? Find out more in this detailed discussion.
The focus of the gaming world might be glued onto the 2023 World Series of Poker, but that’s not the only shuffle on the gaming deck. A more localized, yet significant game is unfolding in the state of Rhode Island. Rhode Island has indeed inched closer to the implementation of online casino regulations.
The Rhode Island Senate convened last Thursday, scoring a resounding victory for online casino industry with the new bill, SB 948. The bill, passed with an overwhelming bipartisan majority, was a monumental moment. However, the road to the 30-4 vote wasn’t a cakewalk. The legislative journey saw its fair share of cliffhangers, all the way from the committee to the constitution.
One unexpected roadblock was the proposal to have live dealers instead of algorithmic computer games. This request came from the Senate Special Legislation and Veterans Affairs Committee, urging a human touch to online table games, broadcasted via closed-circuit cameras and studios. The Rhode Island Lottery, tasked with overseeing the nascent industry, suggested this alteration.
Before the bill could ride the next legislative wave, some additional modifications were needed. For one, the minimum age for players was hiked from 18 to 21. The tax landscape also saw significant changes. While online slot revenues saw taxes rise from 50% to 61%, table games enjoyed a tax rate drop, moving from 18% to 15.5%.
In what felt like a Friday news dump, Rhode Island’s online casino bill moved from the Senate to the House today.
It includes major changes, like taxing slots at 61%.
However, @BallyCasino would have a monopoly with the state’s 1.1 million residents.
— Bonus.com (@BonusUpdate) June 10, 2023
Rhode Island’s online casino gaming legislation was a much-needed win for the industry, which has faced challenging times in 2023.
On the national level, other states, including New York, Indiana, Illinois, among others, have refrained from adopting online gaming regulations. The lack of progress in these regions, already housing casinos capable of handling online activities, remains a puzzling paradox.
Rhode Island’s legislation victory, however, is far from an assured royal flush. The Senate bill, SB 948, is in need of a companion piece in the House to push it over the finish line. But with the House yet to make their move, there are looming uncertainties. Add to this the potential for the House bill to not align with the Senate version, the situation becomes even more complex.
The state Governor, Dan McKee’s take on the issue, remains unknown. The governor’s existing no-compete agreement with IGT and Bally’s, the two casino titans operating in Rhode Island, adds another layer to the plot. In the event of online casino gaming, it is anticipated these two giants, under the Rhode Island Lottery’s supervision, would pioneer the state’s digital casino offerings.
Despite the legislative journey being far from over, Rhode Island has made a significant stride in online casino gaming regulation. Now, it falls on the House and, ultimately, Governor McKee, to decide whether Rhode Island will join other states in the league of online casino gaming.
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