Rhode Island online-poker bill signed into law

Haley Hintze Author Photo
Haley Hintze
Posted on: June 26, 2023 05:56 PDT

Tiny Rhode Island has become the eighth US state to approve regulated online poker for its residents and others physically present in the state. On Wednesday, Rhode Island Governor Daniel McKee signed identical measures SB 948 and HB 6348 into law, after they had been approved by Rhode Island's Senate and House on June 15, the last day on which such fiscally-related matters could be passed.

With McKee's signature, Rhode Island joins Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, New Jersey, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia in approving online poker. Rhode Island, like all the other states except Nevada, approved online poker as part of a broader online casino-games package.

The bill's swift passage and signing came at the behest of Bally's Corporation, which operates the only two major casino venues in the state and had lobbied hard for the measures' approval in the face of expanded iGaming approval in neighboring states.

There is no set timetable for the launch of online poker in Rhode Island, which will be available to people age 21 and up who are physically present in the state. The twin bills went through extensive rewrites before final approval, including the insertion of what could be a hurdle to online poker in the form of a live-dealer requirement for all table games to be offered online. (This corrects the original version of this report. -- hh)

The signed bill retains this live-dealer language, but it also includes provisions for Rhode Island to enter into compacts with other states or regulated offshore jurisdictions to offer online poker on shared platforms. The contradiction will likely be resolved if and when Rhode Island moves forward with its nascent online-poker plans. Here's the inserted text regarding the approval of multi-jurisdictional compacts:

The Division may enter into an interactive gaming reciprocal agreement with a regulatory agency of one or more other states or jurisdictions in which interactive gaming is authorized to allow an interactive gaming operator to accept wagers from persons not physically present in Rhode Island, and to allow persons physically present in Rhode Island to place wagers with parties to the interactive gaming reciprocal agreement, if the Division has determined that the reciprocal agreement is not inconsistent with federal and state law, including Rhode Island constitutional and statutory law.

The bill goes into effect on March 1, 2024, making that the earliest possible launching date for any Rhode Island online poker sites to accept players.