Rhode Island is America’s smallest State by land (1,545 sq. miles) and one of the smallest by population (1.055m). Yet, despite its tiny stature, the “Ocean State” has carved out a decent-sized gambling market. Let’s look into Gambling In Rhode Island – The Ocean State.
Between 1744 and 1843, placing bets on local lotteries was considered a normal part of civic duty. Eventually, the State’s conservative political elite sought to outlaw all forms of gambling, beginning with the passage of a state constitution in 1843. Nevertheless, gambling continued into the early 1900s until police started cracking down on illegal betting hubs.
That changed in the 20th and 21st centuries when gambling became a favorite recreational activity. Rhode Island politicians saw the chance for additional revenue while noticing Connecticut’s gambling expansion enticing residents of the Ocean State to spend their Discretionary income at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun.
Gambling in Rhode Island – The Timeline
Before the 1990s
- By 1947 the State had opened two racetracks – first Narragansett Park, then Lincoln Downs. The industry thrived until the mid-1970s when both tracks closed.
- One of the most beloved racehorses of all time, Seabiscuit, won his first race at Narragansett Park in 1935.
- 1953 – A record crowd of 35,000 jam Lincoln Downs.
- Newport Jai Alai started its first season in 1975.
- 1976 – Final thoroughbred race run, Lincoln Downs is closed.
- 1976 – Newport Jai Alai Fronton opens.
- In 1977, Lincoln Downs was bought by the Taunton Greyhound Association. The track was renamed Lincoln Greyhound Park and began its first racing season in June 1977.
- On Labor Day 1978, Narragansett Park closed.
- 1990 – Narragansett Tribe negotiates for casino gambling under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
- The 1990s – Lawmakers passed a budget that included provisions for certain off-track betting activities at Newport Jai Alai and Lincoln Greyhound Park.
- 1992 – Video lottery terminals (VLTs, actually slot machines, but class II) were approved at both facilities making full-fledged slot parlor “racinos. These VLTs were in response to Foxwoods Casino’s opening in CT.
- 1994 – Voters reject Narragansett Tribe’s casino proposal.
- In 1997, Lincoln Park was converted into a greyhound track.
- 2003 – Newport Jai Alai ends, while the facility is renamed Newport Grand. The jai alai fronton operated from 1976 until 2003 (27 years.)
- 2005 – Lincoln Downs is sold and renamed Twin River.
- 2007 – Lincoln Greyhound Park turns into Twin River Casino with Vegas Style, class III gaming. Newport Grand soon follows, redesigning without Jai-Alai.
- 2009 – Live Greyhound racing ends in Rhode Island at the Twin River facility. (aka, Lincoln Greyhound Park)
The Big Push Toward Casinos
- 2012 – Passage of table gaming at Twin River Casino (but not Newport Grand Casino) officially ushered Rhode Island into the modern gambling age.
- 2015 – Twin River adds a 16-table Poker Room
- 2016 – Twin River Management acquires Newport Grand Casino and moves operations to a new casino in Tiverton, RI. with a hotel.
- Twin River opens a new hotel.
- Rhode Island approves and opens the first Sports Betting in New England at Twin Rivers and Tiverton casinos. Rhode Island’s state lottery oversees sports betting.
- 2019 – Twin River adds mobile sports betting.
Related Post – Bally’s Is Rebranding, And Twin River Is Expanding
- 2020 – Twin River Worldwide Holdings expands
- owners of Twin River, Tiverton, and acquired eight other casinos in six states,
- buys the Bally’s name, along with Bally’s Atlantic City.
- The Rhode Island casinos’ names changed to Bally’s Twin River Lincoln and Ballys Tiverton.
- 2021 – Bally’s Twin River starts new expansion
- Forty thousand square feet of gaming floor and improved dining areas will be added.
- Ballys will move much of the second-floor gaming to the first floor.
- Possible second-floor amenities include a bowling alley, mini-golf course, and dining.
- They added 50,000 square feet to the facility, including a new Korean-style spa.
The Casinos in Rhode Island – The Ocean State
There was a time when I would visit Twin River, play some VLT games, and then bet on greyhounds. I felt like I was transported to Florida in 1985 when Tribal casinos were Class II casinos, and the greyhound parks still existed. Gambling in Rhode Island Casinos has come a long way.
This facility could never make it out of its past. The Newport Grand building opened in June 1976 as a jai alai fronton, and slot machines became the main attraction in 1992. It was redesigned and renovated in 2008 as a slots parlor. But, when it came to adding table games in the two Rhode Island casinos, the residents of Newport said, “NO!” Only Twin River could have table games, leaving Newport Grand to melt away like the wicked witch.
Believe it or not, Newport Grand was known for its local entertainment and tribute bands. I ought to know – I performed there.
So, Twin River Management acquired Newport Grand and closed it in 2018. The gaming license was transferred to the Tiverton Casino Hotel three days later and opened to the public.
An interesting note – The Carpionato Group of Johnston purchased the Newport Grand property from Twin River. It said the company plans to create a mix of retail, restaurants, office space, and perhaps a hotel on the site, but those plans are yet to materialize.
On To Tiverton Hotel Casino
Gambling in Rhode Island took on a new property. The casino hotel that replaced the Newport Grand Casino was Twin River-Tiverton. Twin River Management Group, Inc. eventually became Twin River Worldwide Holdings. Finally, they purchased the Bally’s name in October 2020.
The 85,000-square-foot casino opened with under 1,000 slot machines, 32 table games, and a three-story 84-room hotel. There are also two bars, two sit-down restaurants (now one), and three food-court restaurants, including a 24-hour Dunkin Donuts.
The nearly 35,000 square feet of gaming include:
- the latest slots, with a wide range of denominations,
- table games with Hybrid Stadium Seats
- a mix of live Blackjack, Roulette, Baccarat, Three Card Poker, Craps, Spanish 21, Let It Ride, and Pai Gow Poker,
Bally’s Twin River Lincoln Casino Resort, previously Twin River Casino Hotel, is owned and operated by Bally’s Corporation. Its history is covered throughout this article.
Bally’s Twin River has always felt under pressure to compete with casinos in Connecticut and, in the last three years, Massachusetts. It’s big enough, just not classy enough to be in the same “resort” league as Encore Boston Harbor or Connecticut’s two casinos.
After the expansion, it will have added a projected 40,000 square feet to the gambling floor, a 10,000-square-foot spa, and what is described as an “enhanced food hall area.” It is already one of the largest casinos in the New England and the countr.y.
Rhode Island Casinos By The Numbers
The Lottery in Rhode Island
In 1974, the Rhode Island Lottery was approved. The first ticket for “The Lot” game is sold for 50¢. It’s a weekly game with a top prize of $50,000. The lottery’s first drawing for The Lot game is held at the State House.
A near tragedy occurred after introducing instant scratch games in the late 80s. An ice storm causes the Lottery Headquarters roof to collapse, with everyone leaving safely. However, sales were not interrupted, and within one day, offices were relocated. All services were available at the temporary Headquarters in the Abacus Building at 1210 Pontiac Avenue in Cranston.
The Rhode Island Lottery is the largest voluntary source of income for the StStateRhode Island lottery offers a wide range of interstate and intrastate lotto games, including Mega Millions and Powerball, as well as keno, instant scratchers, and pull-tab games. Betters must purchase all tickets from land-based retailers. The lottery website doesn’t serve beyond providing Rhode Island residents with up-to-date general information and the latest lotto draw results.
In 1992, Legislation allowed Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs), to be operated by the Lottery, at the state’s two pari-mutuel facilities – Lincoln Park (856) and Newport Jai-Alai (436).
Finally, the two casinos in the state are home to several video lottery terminals. However, not all slots offered are part of the VLT Lottery connection. At this time, products by the Lottery include: Instant Games, Daily Numbers, Wild Money, Powerball® Power Play®, Mega Millions® Megaplier®, Lucky for Life®, Keno, Bingo, Video Lottery Terminals, Stadium Gaming, Table Games, and Sports Betting and Pull-Tab Games (for charitable and not-for-profit organizations only).
To call The Rhode Island Lottery a gaming monopoly in the state would be a vast understatement.
Rhode Island was the first State in New England to have sports betting the eighth jurisdiction in the country to legalize sports betting.
Sports betting became legal in Rhode Island in May 2018, with Gov. Gina Raimondo signing it into law in June. Then in March 2019, lawmakers passed another bill that allowed online sports bettingStatehe State. At first, Rhode Island only permitted in-person bets made at the state’s two casinos when betting on sports was legalized. Rhode Island revised its sports betting laws in 2019 to lift restrictions that limited sports betting to in-person bets and expanded them to permit online bets. This made it so William Hill, together with Information Game Technology, could help Twin River run its online sportsbook. As of July 28, 2020, Rhode Islanders can complete the registration process from anywhere in the state.
The Rhode Island Lottery oversees gambling in the state, including online sports betting. Because of this, there is no competition among the top sportsbooks in the country like DraftKings and FanDuel.
You can currently place wagers at the retail sportsbooks at two RI casinos — Bally’s Twin River Lincoln Casino Resort in Lincoln in the northern partStatehe state. Bally’s Tiverton Casino & Hotel in eastern RI is about a half-hour from Providence.
For online sports betting, there is just one sportsbook in the State, Sportsbook Rhode Island. The Rhode Island Lottery oversees the site, which IGT and William Hill power.
What you can’t bet on in Rhode Island
Sportsbook RI primarily offers betting lines on major North American sports but also sprinkles in some international action. This offering is sufficient for most beginner and intermediate sports bettors. There are, however, a few types of wagers you won’t be able to make in Rhode Island.
- Politics – Wagers on political events are off-limits in the Ocean State. No Rhode Island sportsbook will accept bets on politics.
- Entertainment award ceremonies – This type of novelty bet is not offered by Sportsbook Rhode Island.
- Esports – Esports betting is not available on the Sportsbook Rhode Island website or mobile app.
- Rhode Island college sports – Bettors cannot wager on any college event taking place in Rhode Island or any college game involving a Rhode Island-based team.
Latest RI Sports Betting News
June 23, 2023: Gov. Dan McKee signed legislation that will bring online casino gaming to Rhode Island (called iGaming) as early as March 2024.
June 13, 2023: The Rhode Island House Finance Committee approved Senate Bill 948 Sub B, an amended bill to legalize internet gaming, sending it to the House floor for a potential final vote.
May 31, 2023: In April, sports betting player expenditures in Rhode Island reached their lowest point in eight months, yet the state managed to generate year-over-year revenue growth.
April 11, 2023: The Rhode Island Lottery extends its partnership with IGT. IGT will continue to power Sportsbook RI with its PlaySports technology through 2026.
Home Poker and Office Pools
In Rhode Island, section 11-19-20 of the stState’seneral Laws – which covers “Inducing others to visit gambling place” – expressly forbids private citizens from gambling amongst themselves. But unfortunately, it seems Rhode Island is rather serious about dissuading residents from getting together for a weekly poker game with the following law:
“Every person who shall, on any pretext whatsoever, invite, entice, persuade, or induce any other person to visit any house, room, or other place kept for gambling, with the intent that that other person shall at that place engage in gambling or playing at any game of chance, for money or other valuable consideration, shall be fined not less than five hundred dollars ($500) and be imprisoned one year.”
Robin “Binbin” Aubin