Rhode Island set new records across the board during November according to the latest report released by the state’s Lottery. including a big increase in mobile betting. However, the state could still stand to benefit from a less restrictive mobile betting policy.
Rhode Island’s Twin Rivers casinos located in Lincoln and Tiverton combined with the state’s one online sportsbook to collect $31.4 million in total handle during November 2019. That bested the previous record of $28.2 million set by the state during the prior month.
With total payouts reaching $28.7 million, the monthly revenue for Rhode Island sports betting in November was $2.7 million. Both those numbers were also new state records for the fledgling program that began with retail betting back in November 2018; online betting was added in September 2019.
The previous monthly payout record was $25.8 million, set last month. The previous monthly revenue figure was $2.5 million in September 2019.
With just one month of reporting left for 2019, Rhode Island’s sports betting revenue seems to be heading toward a strong finish despite the state's setup flaws.
But could the state make more money with a more relaxed mobile betting policy?
Sportsbook Rhode Island, powered by bookmaker Wiliam Hill through its partnership with Twin River, is the only mobile betting option in the state. Since launching on Sept. 4, online betting in the state has grown monthly in proportion to combined betting action across the state.
Over the last three months, Rhode Island’s online handle has grown steadily, from just over 14% of the state's combined handle in September, to over 20% in October and over 26% in November.
While Rhode Island lawmakers displayed a certain amount of wisdom in regards to legalizing mobile betting in the state, the comparatively low number of bets taken via its Sportsbook Rhode Island option probably means there is still work to do if the state wants to reap the full benefit of sports betting.
For example, online betting in New Jersey makes up over 80% of the total handle in the Garden State, and that number has only trend even higher (closer to 85% and beyond) during recent months as the market heads toward maturity.
Pennsylvania has seen similar results, with more than 80% of its bets coming on mobile.
Neither of those stats requires in-person registration. That's not to say Rhode Island would approach the nine-figure handle that New Jersey and Pennsylvania get from sports betting each month -- Rhode Island's population is barely over 1 million, a fraction of those two Eastern states -- but mobile registration would help.
Rhode Island’s compulsory in-person registration requirement seems to be holding the state back from what could be much larger numbers. According to a recent report by CBS affiliate WPRI in Providence, over 17,000 people had registered for online betting as of Dec. 2, but less than half of those people had physically visited one of the two Rhode Island casinos to activate their accounts.
That same report suggests Twin River will soon launch an initiative to help encourage bettors to activate those unused online accounts. But with more nearby states likely set to launch their own sports betting programs over the coming months -- including New Hampshire, which launched its own mobile betting app that doesn’t require a clunky and disruptive in-person registration process -- it probably behooves Rhode Island lawmakers to revisit the topic altogether.
Bigger betting pools lead to more bets. It’s as simple as that, and Rhode Island bettors might someday soon find it easier to travel across state lines to bet compared to their own state's product.