PROVIDENCE — The day after Rhode Island launched legalized sports betting, a top Democrat said he’s looking to expand it by allowing mobile wagering.
A casino in Rhode Island became the first in New England to accept bets on professional sports Monday. Bets must be placed in person.
Democratic Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, of North Providence, said Tuesday he’s working on a bill to allow people to place bets from anywhere in Rhode Island. He plans to introduce it when the new legislative session begins in January.
Ruggerio said mobile gambling would be a convenience that would generate more revenue for the state. He has been the legislature’s biggest advocate for sports betting, having lobbied for its legalization for decades.
“A lot of young people, millennials, are getting into sports gaming. DraftKings, fantasy football, things of that nature,” he said. “There is an interest and I think we can pursue that interest by offering mobile gaming.”
Rhode Island moved quickly to legalize sports betting after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law this year that made most sports gambling outside of Nevada illegal.
Twin River Casino’s two locations are the only places where bets will be accepted, for now. Sports betting began at the Lincoln casino Monday and it’s expected to begin at the Tiverton casino in December.
Ruggerio envisions a system in which in-person and mobile bets would be made through Twin River. For mobile wagering, a person would have to be in Rhode Island and have an account through Twin River to verify age.
House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, D-Cranston, said Tuesday he’s aware that mobile wagering is a priority for Ruggerio, so that makes it an important issue in the upcoming session.
“If his proposal enhances the gaming experience for Rhode Islanders while providing additional revenue for the state, it is certainly an idea worthy of a thorough review,” he said in a statement.
Twin River spokeswoman Patti Doyle said the casino was “actively engaged in conversations” with legislative leaders about what might be possible for mobile gambling.
Twin River, at this point, is accepting bets on the major professional sports. There is no betting on Rhode Island university teams.
To kick off sports betting in Lincoln, Ruggerio, Mattiello and John Taylor, chairman of Twin River Worldwide Holdings, each wagered $20 on Monday night games.
Ruggerio said he returned to the ticket window after the ceremony and placed a second bet of $110 on the Houston Texans beating the Tennessee Titans. They did. Ruggerio said he’s donating his winnings to the Rhode Island Community Food Bank.