PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As sports betting takes off in Rhode Island, Gov. Gina Raimondo said shes supportive of Senate President Dominick Ruggerio’s push to legalize online sports betting statewide.
Ruggerio recently announced he plans to pitch a proposal early next session that would allow online sports betting. If his proposal passes, it would make Rhode Island the first state in New England with legalized, online sports betting, and one only a few states in the country to allow it.
Raimondo said she is for Ruggerio’s idea and believes online sports betting would probably not need a statewide referendum.
“I am bullish on sports betting,” Raimondo said. “We’re going to try to bring that about and I think there will be more revenue there.”
Ruggerio believes online sports betting could double the state’s sports betting take to approximately $50 million per year.
But there is a social concern in a state that’s home to about 18,000 problem gamblers, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling.
Providence College Professor Patrick Kelly has studied gambling addiction for a decade, and said making gambling more accessible is a recipe for disaster for those who love to place bets.
“The National Council on Problem Gambling recommends 1% of revenues to go to problem gambling prevention and treatment programs,” Kelly explained. “Only two states meet that goal. RI should be another one.”
Kelly said 1% would add up to approximately $3 million a year for those programs, compared with the current $125 million.
Ruggerio said looking at the social impact will be part of the process for legalizing online sports betting.
Raimondo has also expressed concerns on gambling addiction in Rhode Island, though she is confident enough about the chances of a law passing next year, to possibly include the potential revenue in her budget proposal.
“We are working on that right now,” she said. “We are in the middle of making the soup if you will, but I’d like to, let me say that. I’d like to. I think it’s millions of dollars and we are tying to make a plan right now.”
House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello was brief when asked about the odds of online sports betting being legalized, but did say if a bill is submitted he will ensure it gets a fair hearing.