State Rep. proposing legalizing social gaming in RI


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A Rhode Island lawmaker is making a second push to legalize social gaming statewide.

With Super Bowl LIII just days away, many football fans will wage friendly bets at watch parties, or find an organized pool while walking into work.

While putting a few bucks in might seem innocent, it’s against the law. Social gaming is currently illegal in Rhode Island, along with several other states.

“Right now it’s a misdemeanor and I’m trying to take that away, law enforcement should not be enforcing laws that are obsolete,” Rep. William O’brien said.  

O’brien said it’s a common activity that shouldn’t be a crime, describing betting games, such as squares, as a friendly wager.

“Somebody around here might have one going, so what are we going to do? Arrest everybody? It doesn’t make sense,” O’brien said. 

Following the legalization of sports betting, O’Brien is reintroducing a bill that would legalize social gaming. He first made the proposal last year.

The bill didn’t move forward last year due to legal concerns, and O’brien said experts are currently determining whether or not legalizing social gaming would expand the state’s definition of gambling. 

“A legal adviser said it might be be unconstitutional, so we might have to send it to the voters next election,” O’brien explained.

The bill proposes legalizing social gaming, as long as no one other than the participants make a profit. For example, O’Brien said if a bar organizes a pool, the bar can’t make a profit from it, only those involved.

A hearing is scheduled for the bill in March. 

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