Lawsuit Challenges the Legality of Rhode Island Sports Betting

Since May 2018, sports betting has been legalized in several states, including Rhode Island. The new industry is one that players want access to and something that states can benefit from. For months now, revenues have been pouring in to states across the nation that offer the service. Rhode Island has seen great success along the way, but it seems their services are now under attack. The Republican Party of Rhode Island former chair Brandon Bell has started a lawsuit that is challenging the legal standing of sports betting in the state.

The lawsuit says that sports betting was legalized without following the state constitution and seeking voter approval first before expanding gambling with sports betting, both land-based and online. Attorneys for Daniel S. Harrop filed the suit in Superior Court. Harrop is a doctor in the state and a former mayoral candidate. The counsel for the plaintiff is Larisa Law and Fortaine Bell & Associates. They are using the lawsuit to call sports betting unconstitutional in the state.

The goal is to obtain declaratory judgement and injunctive relief, essentially seeing sports betting in the state come to an end. The defendants named in the case including the state’s Department of Administration and the Division of Lotteries.

History of Sports Betting

Sports betting came to reality in the state last year after it was included in the budget. Governor Gina Raimondo placed $23 million of revenue in the budget relating to sports betting. After a delayed launch for the new industry, the amount was cut by 50%. The state soon became the 8th in the US to offer regulated sports betting.

The Twin River Lincoln casino opened their sportsbook in late November and the Tiverton casino flowed soon after. By this year, the state was the first to pass a bill involving sports betting two years in a row. This time around, lawmakers decided to open up the industry to online betting. Players can now wager online via computer or mobile.

The lawsuit is trying to use an amendment of the constitution from the 1990s that says any expansion of gambling requires the approval of residents. So now, the question becomes, is sports betting an expansion of gambling in a legal sense or does it fall under Class III gaming of which there are constitutional provisions for?

The answer to that question remains unclear. For now, it seems sports betting will continue as normal and changes may be imminent in the future. It all depends on how the lawsuit plays out. Hopefully, the end result will be that Rhode Island will continue to be able to allow sports betting and no changes will occur within the industry.

We should see over the next few weeks how the suit will progress. We will continue to watch for new updates and report any findings as they are made available. It may be some time before any news is released as the lawsuit was just filed.


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