Last week, the Rhode Island Republican Party stated it is may consider suing the State of Rhode Island in an effort to stop the expansion of sports betting in the Ocean State.  Specifically, the Republican Party of Rhode Island issued a condemnation of mobile sports betting in the state -claiming that voter approval must be obtained before allowing this type of online betting in Rhode Island.

Republican lawmakers in Rhode Island argue that the state’s constitution requires that voters approve any expansion of sports gambling in the state.  Democratic State Senator Dominick Ruggerio disagrees with the Republican’s stance.  Senator Ruggerio is reportedly of the belief that the state’s constitution does not require a vote to expand sports gambling into the mobile arena.  Rather, he believes that mobile gambling in the state was approved at the same time that sports betting was legalized in the state last year.

This issue has come to a head as Rhode Island lawmakers are in the process of expanding sports gambling in the state as it considering incorporating sports gambling onto mobile devices. The proposal currently before the state house and senate had already passed some initial requirements and was on course to be implemented shortly.

If approved, the measure would allow sports bettors to place bets on their phones or other mobile devices while physically in the state of Rhode Island.   The one wrinkle with regards to implementing the proposal is that Rhode Island citizens would have to register at one of the state’s two casinos in order to become eligible to play on mobile devices.  Some have argued that this approach will slow down the rate in which mobile sports gambling grows in Rhode Island.  It is believed that the casinos are attempting to get more traction into their casinos by forcing bettors to register at the casino in person.  Others are of the opinion that this stringent hurdle may cause some Rhode Islanders to stay in the illegal sports betting market rather than having to register in person.

While Rhode Island was one of the first states to legalize sports betting – movement on the sports gambling front is in the Ocean State is slow.  It is unknown how long of a delay the Republican’s lawsuit threat tactic will take and if it will slow down the proposed expansion into mobile gaming.  At the end of the day, it is likely that the Democrats’ position will prevail – especially in light of the fact that sports gambling is already legal in the state.  However, in the unlikely event that the Republicans do actually file suit on this mobile gaming expansion issue, this could tie up the proposal in legal system for quite some time and potentially continue to delay any further movement on the sports gambling front in Rhode Island.

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