iGaming is here, but it won’t be a revenue jackpot. At least not at first

Online casino gambling launched March 5, but it will be a few more months before state officials can assess whether it’s worth allowing players to play slots and table games via phone, tablet and computer. Bally’s Corp., which has exclusive rights to manage iGaming in partnership with International Game Technology PLC, had predicted that allowing online gambling would bring in up to $210 million to the state’s coffers over five years, however, this estimate was revised by Bally’s Corp. state revised downward to $167.5 million, based on projections from a consulting firm hired by the state. Paul Grimaldi, spokesman for the RI Lottery, which oversees iGaming for the state, says the agency is sticking with its revenue forecast for now and will revisit it in May when financial analysts meet to discuss future revenue figures. “Any change on [iGaming estimates] “Of course, the state won’t exactly make money from iGaming in the first few years. At a revenue estimation conference in November, state officials concluded that iGaming would bring in another $4.9 million between March 1 and June 30, then another $25.1 million in the fiscal year 2025. It is still too early to determine how iGaming will develop, as it started at 12 noon on March 5th. Grimaldi said 315 people registered for the online slots and the table gambling app was released on March 4 before it went live. After that, he no longer had updated numbers. iGaming now allows players within the country to play approximately 170 slots and table games without a trip to one of Bally’s Corp. to have to make .’s two brick-and-mortar casinos in the state. Bally’s has built a 4,000-square-foot studio on the second floor of its Lincoln casino where live dealers will host blackjack and roulette table games. 25 dealers are broadcast simultaneously for eight hours a day. More games will be added over time. According to Bally spokeswoman Patti Doyle, the iGaming program will create between 50 and 75 new jobs. iGaming’s design was changed last year to include live dealers after RI Lottery director Mark Furcolo expressed concerns that running the games through computer software would represent an unconstitutional expansion of gambling. Furcolo also expressed concern that players’ appetite for iGaming would reduce revenue from brick-and-mortar casinos and traditional lottery products. In response, iGaming legislation was changed so that the state would receive a larger share of online slots revenue than originally proposed. Currently, almost 62% of slot machine revenue and 15% of table game revenue go to the state. Grimaldi told PBN the department no longer has any constitutional concerns, but during a legislative committee hearing on the state lottery in January, Furcolo testified that launching iGaming had been “a pretty heavy lift for the current staff.” Still, state leaders welcomed the launch of iGaming in Rhode Island, which became the seventh state to allow online casino gambling. Craig Eaton, Bally’s president and CEO, said iGaming will “better position the state’s casinos in New England’s competitive gaming market.” That market includes Connecticut and Massachusetts, two states whose sports betting is already hurting business in Rhode Island, state officials admit. Other states that moved into online gambling before Rhode Island are already struggling with the consequences of easy access. A February report from Morgan State University’s Center for Data Analytics and Sports Gaming Research said iGaming is “one of the most addictive activities there is,” citing an American Psychological Association study that found 75 % of subjects with iGaming experience reported problem rates or “pathological” gambling. Another report from the Rutgers Center for Gambling Studies on iGaming in New Jersey showed that 31% of online gamblers surveyed had gambled during work hours; Connecticut has seen more than triple the number of calls to its gambling hotline in the last six months. Recognizing the social costs, Rhode Island’s iGaming legislation required Bally’s to allocate at least $50,000 to problem gambling prevention and at least $200,000 to fund gambling treatment programs. The platform also includes “responsible gaming” tools to control time and financial activity on the site, Doyle said, allowing for betting limits, self-exclusions and self-enforced “cooling off periods.”

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