Rhode Island Offers Online Betting, Revenue Still Stumbles
Even though lawmakers in Rhode Island agreed to offer online wagering to bettors in the state, revenue figures are sluggish and well behind initial estimates, created at the time of legalization, over the first three months of the fiscal year.
The state currently has two casinos, the Twin River and the Tiverton, that offers sports betting either in-person or through an online app. Those two casinos are struggling against early expectations with each casino showing significantly lower revenue than anticipated.
At a recent oversight meeting among the state’s lottery officials and lawmakers, it was announced that the sportsbook at the Twin River Casino made just $3.1 million through Saturday, October 19th.
That figure, taken over the first three months of the fiscal year, was less than half of the $6.9 million that the state budgeted for the first quarter of the 2019-2020 year.
The lower taxation figure spells a problem for Rhode Island as the state has one of the largest tax figures for casino revenue on sports betting at 51% and is estimating $22 million in revenue for the fiscal year.
Despite the lethargic early returns, lottery officials reported that the total money bet on football in September was 75% higher than last December. In-person betting was legalized in Rhode Island last November.
Citing the growth of the online betting rollout and the increase in total handle, Lottery Direct Gerald Aubin told lawmakers that the revenue figures are “consistently getting better.”
Rhode Island Officials Ask for Patience as Online Betting Rolls Out
Over 12,000 bettors have signed up for online betting in Rhode Island since the state began offering wagering via the mobile app but, in a surprising development, over half of those customers have yet to activate their accounts.
The problem for most bettors is that signing up for an account to bet online is the first of a two-step process as the individual also has to go to one of the state’s two casinos to activate their personal betting accounts.
At the legislative meeting on Monday, Lottery Director Aubin told lawmakers that just 45% of registered bettors have taken the final step of going to one of the two casinos and making their accounts legal under the law stated in the Rhode Island Constitution.
With 12,000 initial registrants but just 45% percent activating those accounts, these numbers mean that under 6,000 total bettors are actively wagering via mobile betting apps.
Aubin told legislators that close to 600 people are signing up each week for the online account and the early numbers were called “very good” by State Rep. Bill O’ Brien, chairman of the Permanent Joint Committee on State Lottery.
In more positive news for the two casinos running sports betting for the state, Aubin told the committee that $17.9 million had been wagered on NFL games through Week 6 of the season, with just over $2 million won in revenue.
Mobile betting’s slow start in Rhode Island can also be attributed to a small degree by the lawsuit that Republican lawmakers in the state who are challenging the constitutionality of online wagering.