Rhode Island bill seeking to allow betting on college teams heads for full Senate vote

When Rhode Island lawmakers legalized sports betting in 2018, they made betting on in-state college teams forbidden. That could change this year. A bill seeking to legalize wagering on RI collegiate teams is currently being considered in the State Senate, greatly expanding the state’s market if passed. 

R.I. Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, who sponsored the state’s original sports betting legislation, is seeking to amend the law to include allowing residents the chance to bet on local collegiate teams. “I think we can add to that, do something that Massachusetts is doing,” he told 12 News.

The new proposal would allow Rhode Islanders to bet on college athletic events that either take place in Rhode Island or in which any Rhode Island collegiate team participates, regardless of where it takes place.

In this measure, a “collegiate tournament” is defined as a series of collegiate sports or athletic events involving four or more collegiate teams that make up a single unit of competition. Tournaments would include pre-season invitationals, conference tournaments and NCAA tournaments, such as March Madness.

“I think it’s something that will raise revenue next year,” Ruggerio said of the bill, as Rhode Islanders would no longer have to hop the border to Massachusetts to bet on these events. “I’m also looking at iGaming. I think that will be a substantial revenue generator down the line where people can stay at home and basically do everything similar to what they do on sports betting.”

The bill passed 6-2 in a meeting of the Senate Committee on Special Legislation and Veterans Affairs on Wednesday afternoon. Senate spokesman Greg Pare told 12 News the bill will now go to the full Senate “likely next week.”

The effort to expand sports betting options in Rhode Island comes as the state’s market keeps gaining momentum. Players in the Ocean State wagered $62.3 million on sports in January, a record for RI, although revenue in the US state remained level year-on-year.