Rhode Island lawmakers have voted 64-8 to allow sports betting by mobile device, paving the way for bettors around the state to gamble without leaving their homes.
The addition of mobile betting is predicted to raise $3 million dollars by June 30, though previous estimates of gaming revenues have been off.
Sports betting in the Ocean State is very popular. So much so, the two casinos in state have expanded their sports book facilities to shorten the lines of bettors.
Sen. President Dominick Ruggerio sponsored the bill to allow betting from mobile apps within the state, and after bettors register at one of the casinos. He said the expansion is legal.
“I think it’s already been decided. A number of states have done it in the manner that we’re doing it,” Ruggerio told NBC 10 News.
He has a trio of legal opinions to bolster his claim.
But Attorney Joseph Larisa disagrees.
“The constitution clearly says if you want a new type of gambling, it’s got to go to the voters,” he told NBC 10.
He said any new gambling needs to pass a referendum, and that taking betting outside the casinos is a new type of gambling, and opens the door to further expansion.
“It’s a different type of gambling. It’s going to be on everybody’s computer and iPhone Samsung device if they want it. And, frankly, the reason they are using for not putting this on the ballot would allow a virtual casino. Virtual lottery terminals, table games, everything, right on your laptop.”
The bill is headed to the Governor’s desk for her expected signature.
The only way to halt implementation now would be through a lawsuit, and Larisa said he expects one.
“I’m hoping and expecting that there will be a suit challenging sports betting in its entirety as beyond the power of the general assembly without voter approval and hopefully at some point in the next three weeks,” Larisa said.