Rhode Island ups ante in states' bid for sports-betting revenue

Rhode Island leaders’ interest in the revenue that sports wagering would generate suggests what’s at stake for Connecticut and other states anticipating a U.S. Supreme Court decision by this summer.

In her budget proposal for fiscal year 2019, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo last week included $23.5 million in revenue from sports betting.

Might Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s upcoming budget proposal similarly reflect such an assumption?

“Typically, we don’t disclose what’s in the budget or what’s not in the budget before it’s released,” Kelly Donnelly, a spokeswoman for Malloy's office, said Friday, declining to depart from past practice.

The Connecticut legislature will convene Feb. 7.

Five members of the Rhode Island Senate — four Democrats and the minority leader, Republican Dennis Algiere of Westerly — introduced a bill last week that would authorize sports betting at Twin River Casino in Lincoln and at the new Twin River-Tiverton casino, which will replace Newport Grand, a slots parlor.

All of it is contingent on whether the Supreme Court strikes down a 26-year-old federal ban on sports betting. The high court heard arguments in December on New Jersey’s challenge of the law, which affects all but four states, including Nevada.

"We’ve had preliminary discussions with the state and Division of Lotteries about the possibility of offering sports betting at Twin River Casino in Lincoln should the Supreme Court overturn the existing ban,” Patti Doyle, a spokeswoman for Twin River Management Group, which operates the Rhode Island casinos, wrote Friday in an email.

“But it's really premature to put too much specificity around it as the decision isn't due until the April/May timeframe,” Doyle wrote. “Should the ban be overturned, we would look to hold sports betting in the grandstand area of the facility so guests would be seated stadium-style.”

Doyle said Twin River management is not contemplating sports betting in Tiverton right now “but that’s not to say it wouldn’t be considered at some point in the future.”

The Tiverton casino is scheduled to open Oct. 1, she said.

Connecticut’s legislature passed a gaming-expansion bill last year that called for the commissioner of the state Department of Consumer Protection to adopt sports betting regulations “to the extent permitted by state and federal law.”

The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes, respective owners of Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun, have expressed interest in offering sports betting at their casinos if the state authorizes it. Sportech Venues, the New Haven-based operator of 16 off-track betting locations in the state, also would be a candidate to offer the wagering, as would, presumably, the Connecticut Lottery Corp.

The Rhode Island bill authorizing sports betting would prohibit wagering on any college sports or athletic events that take place in Rhode Island or any event in which a Rhode Island college team participates, regardless of where it takes place.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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