Rhode Island Race and Sports Wagering
The Division of Commercial Licensing & Racing & Athletics, under the Department of Business Regulation, regulates and oversees pari-mutuel wagering operations.
Pari-mutuel wagering was legalized in Rhode Island in 1934. Narragansett Park opened in August 1934, offering live horse racing. In 1947, Lincoln Park Racetrack opened. In 1976, after losses mounted as customers left for Connecticut's offtrack betting venues and the state denied the track a larger share of the betting handle, live horse racing came to an end at Lincoln Park. Later that year, Lincoln Park was sold to the Taunton Greyhound Association, which renamed it the Lincoln Greyhound Park. The first season of live greyhound racing took place at Lincoln Park in June 1977. In 1976, Newport (Grand) Jai Alai opened. In 1978, after 44 years of horse meets, Narragansett discontinued live horse racing as well.
In a statewide referendum in November 1990, voters rejected a measure allowing offtrack betting in the state. Legislators then approved 104 days per year of simulcasting for out-of-state races at Lincoln Park and Newport Jai Alai – and the pari-mutuel wagering associated with it. Simulcasting of horse races from other tracks began in July 1991.
In July 1992, the General Assembly voted to allow VLTs at Lincoln Park and Newport Jai Alai and allotted 10% of VLT revenue to subsidize kennel purses. By September, 1,200 machines were installed and operational at Lincoln Park.
In July 1995, the state reduced the track owners' share of VLT income from 33% to 31%, and the kennel owners' share from 10% to 6%.
In 2003, live jai alai ended at Newport Grand, but jai alai simulcasting continued.
In 2003, two Lincoln Park executives were indicted on federal charges stemming from an alleged scheme in 2001 to give $4 million to the law firm of House Speaker John Harwood in exchange for support of an expansion to the track's VLT area and to thwart development of a casino proposed by the Narragansett Indian Tribe. Because of this corruption scandal, Governor Carcieri ordered that the track be sold. In January 2005, BLB Investors LLC purchased Lincoln Park from Wembley PLC. Lincoln Park was renamed Twin River and underwent a $220 million overhaul and expansion, including bars, restaurants, a comedy club and an auditorium. The number of slot machines (VLTS) was increased from 3,200 to 4,750. In 2007, the Twin River Casino opened under new ownership.
In May 2009, Twin River's owners proposed a halt to live greyhound racing to save costs, disclosing that the racino was near bankruptcy. However, state law required that the track must offer at least 125 days of racing per year to be able to keep VLT gambling. Greyhounds continued to race through 8 August 2009. On 15 May 2010, Gov. Carcieri signed legislation banning greyhound racing in the state, which allowed Twin River to cancel dog racing and continue operating as a slot parlor.
In 2013, Twin River began offering table gaming after voters approved a 2012 referendum to expand gaming in the state.
On 22 June 2018, Gov. Gina Raimondo signed a sports betting bill into law. Only two casinos in the state — Twin Rivers casinos in Lincoln and Tiverton — will offer single-game sports wagering, beginning in October 2018. The cities of Lincoln and Tiverton will receive $100,000 in compensation for serving as the host communities for legal sports betting and the state will receive 51% of revenue, with the vendor receiving 32% and the casino 17%.
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