Is Sports Betting Legal in Rhode Island?

Rhode Island is not one of the United States' most active sports regions. They have plenty of fans, make no mistake, but the state itself does not boast any professional franchises or strong collegiate powerhouses. Providence's basketball program is the closest they come, so a lion's share of their fandom rests with the state of Massachusetts' best professional and collegial squads.

Rhode Island Sports Betting Law

In light of this tepid sports market, Rhode Island is not among the states who have pursued legalizing sportsbooks with measurable aggression. They permit and regulate most of the usual forms of gambling, but there is no current bill aimed at putting sportsbooks in one of their casinos. 

Casino Expansion

Just two casinos currently operate out of Rhode Island, with another one set to open in the near future. That's not a lot. It's also not surprising. Rhode Island ranks 43rd in the U.S. on the population scale. They don't need a ton of establishments. They can always pivot, as some have tried to do, so the state becomes more of a tourist draw, but with both Delaware and New Jersey (Atlantic City) in close proximity, they're never going to effectively tap into that out-of-state market. 

Tribal Casinos in Limbo

Though Rhode Island has federally recognized tribes on-site, they do not have a tribal casino within their lines. This, by the way, has nothing to do with a lack of trying on the tribes' behalf. Different ones have tried opening gambling halls in the past, only to have their overtures be rebuffed.

Most (correctly) argue that Rhode Island's current policies aren't conducive to expansion, period. Casinos aren't just seeking approval to open their doors; they're trying to convince the state that another casino makes sense at all. In essence, Rhode Island has capped the number of running places at whatever number they have at the time, be it two or three, making it doubly difficult to tack on additional establishments.

Daily Fantasy Sports Betting: A Legal Form or Gaming

Despite Rhode Island's somewhat hard-nosed stances when it comes to sportsbooks and casinos, they have legally recognized daily fantasy sports as a viable form of gaming.

In fact, they were one of the states who approved the patroning of daily fantasy sports back in 2016, resting their reasoning on the usual applicable argument: these contests lean toward ones of skill, not events of pure chance.

Social Gambling Limbo

Due to explicit language within their laws, and a lack of discernible caveats, Rhode Island is not a social gambler's dream. Technically, by their exact iteration of the law, you could run a football pool at work, put in $10, win $100 and be breaking the law.

Archaic, I know. Certain representatives have proposed legislature to legalize these types of instances. Nothing has been indiscriminately decided, but as of now, social gambling of football-pool and living-room poker scales is not subject to active prosecution.

Rhode Island Gambling Law Overview

Please see below for a more specific breakdown of what betting types are and aren't allowed in Rhode Island at this time.

  • Casino Gambling: Legal
  • Tribal Gambling: Legal (although the state has blocked tribal casino openings thus far)
  • Poker: Legal
  • Horse-Race Betting: Legal
  • Dog-Race Betting: Not legal
  • Lottery: Legal
  • Daily Fantasy Betting: Legal
  • Social Gambling: Not specified (but not subject to active prosecution)
  • Charitable Gambling: Legal (only with a license and in approved formats)
  • Online Gambling: Not specified

Rhode Island Sports Teams

Due to the absence of enough noteworthy teams in Rhode Island, we will split our focus between in-house squads and the most popular professional factions that are located outside state lines.

Providence Friars (College Basketball)

The Providence Friars are one of the most recognizable basketball programs in the Big East. They have never won a national championship, or even a regular-season conference title, but they have been to the NCAA tournament 19 times over a 68-year existence—including each of the last four years under head coach Ed Cooley.

Pawtucket Red Sox (Minor League Baseball)

The Pawtucket Red Sox are the Triple-A minor league affiliate for the Boston Red Sox. That doesn't make them a huge draw necessarily, but they are the last stop for players en route to the MLB club, so their crowds aren't insubstantial, either. 

Stationing this team in Pawtucket has proved beneficial for the Red Sox. Minor league players are now close enough to Boston, Massachusetts, that they can be called up on a lark and join the roster right away, with minimal waiting time.

Boston Red Sox (MLB)

Zero surprises here.

Rhode Island plays home to the Red Sox's Triple-A affiliate, so it's only natural their rooting interests would lie with the MLB team itself. The New England Patriots have made strong plays on popularity here, since Rhode Island is fairly close to Foxborough, but the baseball season is longer. It spans 162 games, which keeps residents occupied for months. 

Plus, baseball is kind of Rhode Island's thing. It's certainly not football. Basketball is the more widely played sport there than pigskin parties. And it helps that the Red Sox—who most recently won a World Series in 2013—remain one of the most relevant teams in all of sports, not unlike the Patriots. They aren't immune to rebuilding like the Patriots, but their reinvention periods never seem to last long.

Take the current squad. They spent two years hovering below .500 after their 2013 title. In the years since, however, they have returned to winning at a 90-victory pace.

Rhode Island's Biggest Sporting Event of the Year

With its proximity to the ocean, along with the small-town feel that the entire state gives off, Rhode Island is an ideal destination for the Volvo Ocean Race Series. The event is recognized as the world's premier off-shore race, in no small part because of its length. It includes a total of 11 legs that take participants through four oceans and six continents over the course of 45,000 nautical miles.

I know what you're thinking: This is intense. And you're not the slightest bit wrong. 

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