Super Bowl a milestone in R.I. casinos' sports betting gambit

Rhode Island officials were loath to predict Thursday how much legal sports betting revenue this weekend’s Super Bowl might generate for the state.

But it’s a safe bet they’ll be watching Sunday when the New England Patriots, for now a 2.5-point favorite, take on the Los Angeles Rams.

The game is another milestone in the history of legal sports betting in New England, an era that began a couple of months ago when the Twin River casinos in Lincoln and Tiverton, R.I., began taking wagers on professional sports. Among bettors, the Super Bowl is one of the biggest events of the year.

Since sports betting debuted Nov. 26 at Twin River in Lincoln and Dec. 3 at Tiverton Casino Hotel, the results have been so-so.

Figures released this week show that through December, the casinos had combined to take in $13.8 million in wagers and had held onto a little more than $1 million after paying out winning bets.

After commissions and operating expenses were deducted, the state, which taxes the casinos’ sports betting winnings at 51 percent, kept about $500,000, said Paul Grimaldi, a spokesman for the Rhode Island Department of Revenue, which includes the Lottery Division.

“It’s early yet; we’re only two and a half months into this, and every day is a new day,” he said. “This has been a phased rollout and it’s a little hard to get a sense of how well we’re doing. We expect the Super Bowl will be a peak, then there’ll be a trough until March Madness. That’ll be another peak.”

Officials had hoped sports betting would generate $11.5 million for the state by June 30, the end of the current fiscal year. Gov. Gina Raimondo’s budget proposal for the 2019-20 fiscal year includes $30 million in sports betting revenue, $3 million of which would be generated by online sports betting.

The casinos have been authorized to provide on-premises sports betting via mobile devices, and legislation has been introduced to allow online sports betting from anywhere in the state.

“Obviously, there’s an appetite for it,” Grimaldi said of sports betting in general. “People are lining up (to place bets) and they’re standing in line for an hour to do it. We’ve been pushed by demand to find ways to speed it up and Twin River has responded by opening more (betting) windows.”

Twin River also plans to accommodate bettors by installing ATM-like betting kiosks throughout the casinos, Grimaldi said.

New acquisitions

Twin River Worldwide Holdings, which owns the Rhode Island casinos, announced this week that it will acquire three casinos in Black Hawk, Colo.

In addition to its Rhode Island casinos, Twin River owns the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Biloxi, Miss., and Arapahoe Park in Aurora, Colo., a horse racing track linked to an off-track betting network.

In its latest expansion, Twin River Holdings will acquire an Affinity Gaming subsidiary that owns Golden Gates, Golden Gulch and Mardi Gras, three properties located along a half-mile strip of casino and casino-hotel properties in a historic mining town. Combined, the three casinos have 36,000 square feet of gaming space.

“With respect to the Colorado acquisition, we’ve been operating in that state since 2005, so when the Affinity Gaming assets went on the market, we saw it as an opportunity to broaden our base there, particularly in the Metro Denver area,” Patti Doyle, a Twin River spokeswoman, said.

No terms of the deal were disclosed.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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