Bill for mobile sports betting advances in Rhode Island

The sports book area of the Tiverton Casino is expected to open about a week after the Twin River Casino in Lincoln opens its sports book Monday, is seen in this file photo from the opening in August. Photo by Steve Klamkin WPRO News

By JENNIFER McDERMOTT, The Associated Press

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A bill to allow mobile wagering for sports betting in Rhode Island cleared its first legislative hurdle and is headed for a floor vote.

A state Senate committee unanimously approved it Wednesday night. A vote on the Senate floor could happen as soon as Tuesday, Senate spokesman Greg Pare said Thursday.

Expanding sports betting is a top priority for Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, a Democrat. He introduced the bill to enable the creation of an app that people could use to access the sports betting offerings at Twin River Casino from anywhere in Rhode Island.

He is seeking to address complaints of long lines at the casino and add to the state’s coffers.

“We want to generate revenue and we want to make sure people have a good experience and come back,” Ruggerio said last week at Twin River Casino in Lincoln.

The governor’s proposed budget is counting on $30 million from sports betting, including $3 million in new revenue from mobile gambling.

The House Finance Committee is also considering legislation to permit mobile gambling for sports betting. It has support from the chamber’s top Democratic leaders, with the House speaker and House majority leader listed as bill sponsors.

The state lottery says it would take about six months to get mobile gambling up and running, if it’s authorized.

Rhode Island is the only New England state that allows sports betting.

Football fans legally bet almost $6.5 million on the Super Bowl this year in Rhode Island. The sportsbook lost $2.35 million when it paid those who won bets, according to the state Department of Revenue. The state’s share of that is about $1.2 million.

Many gamblers backed the New England Patriots, who beat the Los Angeles Rams 13-3 and covered the spread of 2 1/2 points.

Ruggerio said “we’re a victim of our success” because local teams are doing so well, but he thinks the state will make money off sports betting during NCAA March Madness.

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