Rhode Island sports bettors and online gaming patrons are now permitted to set up and use their sports betting accounts from outside physical gaming facilities, removing the need to visit a licensed venue in-person to complete player registrations.
Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo completely the process by signing SB 2919 and HB 8097 to allow new bettors to complete account registrations without going to a casino. The bills faced no impediment from lawmakers by being overwhelmingly passed in each of Rhode Island’s two chambers.
While the twin bills received overwhelming support from lawmakers, House Minority Leader Representative. Blake Filippi expressed some concern about going against the original understanding of Rhode Island’s sports betting legislation, by stating that the state constitution required on-site registration. However, thankfully legal experts confirmed placing the wager on-site can be satisfied simply with a server physically located in the casino.
The law should take full effect before the end of August 2020 (one month after the Governor signing off on the bill) thereby giving the state’s online bettors plenty of time to get themselves registered online before the beginning of the 2020/21 NFL season.
The changes led by responsibility in reacting to social distancing
The need for in-person registration in the Ocean State of Rhode Island was seen as a major barrier to customer recruitment for online sportsbook operators, and like many other jurisdictions, Rhode Island had seen a significant decline in sports betting revenues on the back of the casino closures due to the global pandemic.
Things reached their worst point in Rhode Island in May, with the Ocean State suffering a 71.6% year-on-year decline in sports betting revenue. Revenue for that full month amounted to $163 472 compared to $574 703 in the same month last year, while Rhode Island betting handle also fell 89.7% from $14.6 million to $1.5 million.
What’s more, approximately 14 000 of Rhode Island’s sports bettors began the sportsbook registration and never completed it. Even less still actually put money into their accounts once they were set up. As a result, Rhode Island’s betting revenue had been lean. However, it was the onset of the global pandemic that really forced the action.
Come the impact of the pandemic, a change to the wording of bill HB 8097 to enable a fully remote registration experience was instituted by House of Representatives members Marvin Abney and Nicholas Mattiello.
In a syndicated statement issued before the eventual safe passage of the bill, the two House members justified the changes, saying:
“Especially during these times of social distancing, enabling people to register online for sports gaming provides an added convenience that will also enhance revenue for the people of our state. With many team sports ready to resume play shortly, this will provide a safe entertainment option for Rhode Islanders to participate in sports gaming from their homes.”
Rhode Island’s move could lead other states to cut in-person registration
Rhode Island is leading the way for other states to follow. Of the 3 other states that still require in-person registration for online sports wagering, only the Silver State of Nevada has no plans to remove that requirement in the short-term future.
Iowa is set to permit remote registration at the beginning of 2021, while the sports bettors Illinois will be required to wait until the state issues its online-only license which is bearing a fee of $20 million. However, Illinois temporarily removed the in-person sign-up requirement for 3 months due to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic outbreak, but has since put the restriction back in place pending the full-time switch to remote registration next year.