R.I. casinos prep for 'March Madness' by installing self-service kiosks

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Rhode Island’s casinos expect to have self-service kiosks in place this week to help accommodate an anticipated boom in business due to “March Madness,” the annual men’s NCAA basketball tournament.

Twin River, which owns the state’s two casinos, plans to install 17 kiosks at its Lincoln facility and five at its Tiverton location. It hopes the kiosks will eliminate long lines in the casinos’ sportsbooks.

The casinos, which introduced sports betting late last year, are the only New England venues offering legal wagering on sports.

The tournament begins Tuesday, with four “playdown” games, followed by first-round play Thursday and Friday and the second round Saturday and Sunday. Teams from three New England schools — Northeastern, Vermont and Yale — are among the 68 teams in the tournament.

This is the first tournament since a U.S. Supreme Court decision cleared the way for states to enact laws legalizing sports betting.

The American Gaming Association, a trade group representing the U.S. casino industry, announced survey results Monday showing Americans plan to wager $8.5 billion on the tournament, with one in five adults placing a bet. Conducted by Morning Consult, the survey finds more than 40 million people will wager a combined $4.6 billion on 149 million brackets.

Nearly 18 million people will wager $3.9 billion at a sportsbook, online, with a bookie or with a friend, according to the survey.

“During this year’s tournament … sports fans are expected to bet 40 percent more than they did on this year’s Super Bowl,” said Bill Miller, AGA’s president and chief executive officer. “Unlike any other sporting event in the country, March Madness attracts millions who fill out brackets, make casual bets with friends or wager at a legal sportsbook, which Americans can now do more than ever before.”

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo is expected to soon sign into law legislation that would enable bettors to place online bets from anywhere in the state. Currently, online bets only may be placed from the premises of the casinos.

In Connecticut, a legislative committee could vote as soon as Tuesday on a bill authorizing sports betting.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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