In a decision released Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court has given the okay for states to legalize sports betting -- a move that Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo expects to add $23.5 million in new revenue for the budget year starting July 1.
Raimondo spokesman Josh Block said the Supreme Court decision vindicates the governor's inclusion of the anticipated revenue in her budget proposal in January.
“The administration took proactive measures in anticipation of today’s Supreme Court decision which will allow Rhode Island to stay competitive with other states," Block said. "Attorney General Kilmartin’s leadership has been critical to this initiative, and the state is already in the process of choosing a vendor and developing the infrastructure to begin sports betting this fall. We’ll continue our work to implement sports betting and keep Rhode Island revenue in Rhode Island.”
Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, who introduced legislation to allow sports betting at Twin River in Lincoln and a new casino being developed by Twin River in Tiverton, praised the Supreme Court decision.
“Enabling legal sports wagering in Rhode Island would provide revenue for critical state services while providing a new entertainment option for Rhode Islanders,” Ruggerio said. “The state now has an opportunity to offer a legal means for Rhode Islanders to enjoy a form of entertainment in which many already engage. Sports gaming also provides the state with a revenue stream that supports critical priorities, such as investing in roads and schools, without increasing the tax burden on citizens.”
House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello said, “I am pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court has made this ruling in time for us to consider sports betting in our state’s budget deliberations. I have been on record as supporting sports betting should it be ruled legal, and that day has now come. I look forward to finalizing the details.”
Twin River spokeswoman Patti Doyle said the company is reviewing the Supreme Court ruling and its implications for Rhode Island.
"That said, during the last couple of months we began to consider how our two Rhode Island venues - Twin River Casino in Lincoln and the soon to open Tiverton Casino and Hotel - could possibly accommodate the addition of sports betting should the ruling prove favorable to Rhode Island," Doyle said. "That review has included space and staff considerations. We will continue that review and planning process. We look forward to learning more about the state’s approach to sports betting."
The Providence Journal reported that two companies, Twin River and lottery giant IGT, played a previously undisclosed role in behind-the-scenes talks as sports betting was emerging as an issue.
State Department of Revenue spokesman Paul Grimaldi responded to a question about whether private sector entities were playing too influential a role in Rhode Island's move to adopt sports betting with this comment: "The administration always takes into consideration the views of a diverse set of stakeholders and subject matter experts when considering implementing new policies. We’re committed to an open and transparent process as we consider how to implement sports betting in Rhode Island. As always, we will work with legislative leaders, other relevant state agencies and stakeholders as we move through this process.”
One of the Republicans running for the chance to take on Raimondo, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, used a statement to comment on the Supreme Court decision: "Now that SCOTUS has made its decision, one which I support, it would be wise to have a forward looking, transparent conversation on how any state realized revenues should be allocated. Instead of plugging Raimondo’s budget holes due to her reckless spending, we should be creating dedicated lanes such as funding tax cuts & school repairs."
(Raimondo's campaign pointed to news coverage about structural issues with Cranston schools to criticize Fung. “Governor Raimondo is leading the way to pass a much-needed school funding package to fix, upgrade and build public schools throughout Rhode Island,” the governor's deputy campaign manager, David Ortiz, said “In fact, the proposal would provide up to 20 percent more funding for school repair and construction projects in Cranston."
Another would-be rival to Raimondo, Republican-turned-independent Joe Trillo, said: “While I am in favor of the concept of sports betting, it poses a lot of potential problems. I don’t think this whole idea has been thought through enough. Most people who want to bet on a sports team now, will go to a bookie, which gives our state no tax renvenue, as well as forces people to commit illegal activity. Legalized betting would enable people to bet on their favorite sports teams and at the same time, the state would be collecting tax revenue. My concern is that sports teams are run by private individuals and there is a greater possibility of fixing a sports game due to greed. In order to make it fair, I believe it needs to be subject to regulations and betting maximums. Any money that the state derives from this venture should be put in a restricted receipt account, designated for local street repairs in our cities and towns, as opposed to placing it in the General Fund, which is like throwing it in the river. Perhaps this will be the only way that Reservoir Avenue in Cranston can get repaved.”
This post has been updated.