Online Gambling For Real Money in Rhode Island

Rhode Island is a tiny state as far as states go, the smallest in the country in fact, with their only 100,000 square miles of area. This is only the area of a good-sized city, and the whole state in fact consists of its major city, Providence, and its suburbs. This has Rhode Island having among the highest population densities of any state, and while there are only a million people that live in Rhode Island, they are packed in pretty tightly and any location in the state is a short drive away.

Rhode Island has had a long history of being friendly to real money gambling, and although like elsewhere they did take a significant break from it at a time where the country as a whole took a much dimmer view of gambling than they do today, Rhode Island remains one of the most gambling friendly states in the country to this day.

It’s not that the state has a plethora of gambling, and other than the lottery, there’s only 2 places to wager at, but what they do have is quite impressive relative to the very small size of this state. Rhode Island has also made some very exciting improvements lately, with perhaps even more on the way soon. Join us in a tour of Rhode Island’s gambling past, present, and future.

History of Gambling in Rhode Island

Rhode Island Online Casinos and SlotsRhode Island started out as the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. There is an actual island in the state called Rhode Island, although the great majority of the state lives on the mainland, these Providence Plantations.

Although it has been historically referred to as the State of Rhode Island, the name only became officially shortened to this in 2020 by way of a referendum. Only about 60,000 people live on Rhode Island, in contrast to the 1.6 million people that live in the former Providence Plantations, now Greater Providence, considerably more than the 1 million people that live in the State of Rhode Island itself.

Rhode Island is the smallest state in the country geographically, and when your biggest city encompasses the entire state and then some, and not a particularly big city as far as big cities go, with the only part left out being a little island that the state is named after, this gives you an idea of how compact this state is, just 1,000 square miles big.

Rhode Island was one of the original 13 American colonies, and during colonial times, lotteries were very popular generally, including Rhode Island. Although Rhode Island started out as a Puritan settlement, and gambling is not among the pure traits that these people normally seek, the Puritans of Rhode Island were a more liberal crowd and there was plenty of gambling that went on in Rhode Island back when it was a colony, and founder Roger Williams envisioned it as a “bastion of personal liberty.”

For over 250 years, from its founding in 1643 up until 1896, gambling was legal in Rhode Island, coming to an end with the passage of a general law prohibiting all gambling. This is the same law that remains on the books today and did manage to make all gambling illegal, although this still leaves the state able to add exceptions to this as time goes on.

Personal liberty in Rhode Island, at least as far as the personal liberty to gamble is concerned, ended up having to take a vacation for a number of decades, but it did take 50 years of lobbying from gambling opponents to finally make this happen. True to form, gambling in Rhode Island was considerably harder to bring to an end than in other original colonies, and didn’t even stay away for that long.

Rhode Island didn’t mess around with their gambling laws, and it is against the law to gamble, to participate in the offering of gambling in any way, or even to be present anywhere gambling is conducted. These old laws remain on the books in their original form, although the state specifically allowing certain types does take precedence as it always does, and Rhode Island didn’t waste that much time starting the exceptions.

Rhode Island wrote their general gambling prohibition into their state constitution, which requires a state-wide referendum to override, but voters were more than happy to vote for pari-mutuel horse race betting in 1934, at a time when states with a more progressive view of gambling started to permit this.

Within months of this passing, Narragansett Park was built, and Rhode Islanders could now bet on horses. A second track, Lincoln Downs, offering betting on greyhound races, was completed in 1947. While many residents enjoyed placing bets at them throughout the next few decades, by 1978, both had run their last races, and the horse and dog race betting experiment in Rhode Island came to an end, never to return.

The lottery had come to town though by then, with the Rhode Island Lottery being created in 1973 by way of another successful referendum. This left the state with only the lottery for a time, although when the 1990s arrived, with many states welcoming their first casinos, most of which were run by tribes, Rhode Island had another vote on gambling. It was not to permit casinos though, but just to allow their residents to bet on horse races held elsewhere, since this was still legal but the state had none.

Rhode Island voters ended up saying no to the idea, but state legislators went ahead and passed a law allowing for off-track betting on greyhound racing and jai-alai, considered to be similar to dog and horse racing in terms of regulation, which went on for a while until it recently came to an end as well.

During this time, in 1992, the state also permitted what are called video lottery terminals, which is really just another name for slot machines with perhaps a less offensive sounding name. Rhode Island does not have any Indian tribes that run casinos, but they decided to get in on the action on non-tribal lands and get in on the ground floor with this new craze, as they did with both horse race betting and the lottery previously.

It turned out that Rhode Islanders also enjoyed casino table games, and Foxwoods Casino was just a short drive into neighboring Connecticut. It took until 2012 for Rhode Island to finally decide to allow table games in their state. Rhode Island now had 2 full service casinos, the Twin River Casino on the old Lincoln Downs property, and the Newport Grand Casino, which was relocated in 2019 to become the Tiverton Casino Hotel.

Rhode Island also now has legal sports betting, both at their two casinos and by way of apps that you have to be physically located within the state to enjoy. Rhode Island’s gambling scene may not quite live up to being a bastion of personal liberty as its state founder envisioned, but it’s at least more of a bastion than most states, and is at least getting closer to the ideal.

Rhode Island Key Facts

  • Abbreviation: RI
  • State Motto: Hope
  • Capital City: Providence
  • Largest City: Providence
  • Population Estimate: 1.05 Million (45th)
  • Website: www.ri.gov

Rhode Island Gambling Laws

Gambling laws always require a working definition of what sort of activities laws are aimed at, and some terms such as gambling are subject to variation enough that states will more narrowly define what it is exactly that they are looking to prohibit.

The first part of Rhode Island’s definition of the forms of gambling their laws prohibit makes it illegal to directly or indirectly “set up, put forth, carry on, promote, or draw, privately or publicly” various activities that the state considers to be within their definition of gambling.

Whatever these activities, we already know that we cannot legally participate in any way in them. The “carry on” part covers gambling itself, in the way that a card room operator would be setting up and promoting the gambling and the players would be carrying on the gambling.

We also have learned that it doesn’t make any difference whether the gambling is in private or not, which extends the net all the way from playing at a casino to a game of cards for money at home between friends.

Listed gambling activities include “any lottery, chance, game, or device of any nature or any kind whatsoever.” If, in engaging in any of these activities, items of value become exchanged between the participants, the crime of gambling in Rhode Island has been committed.

This clearly involves games such as casino games and poker, which are all clearly games, and they also involve using devices of some kind, and even involve chance. These games fulfill not just one but three separate conditions, any of which would make the playing of these games for real money against the law.

It even snares these two as far as playing either real money poker or real money casino games online. Rhode Island does not rely on using gambling devices in their prohibitions, they only require that you use any device whatsoever to gamble, and computers and mobile devices are indeed devices of any nature or any kind whatsoever.

It is not so easy to fit sports betting in here, because carrying on in a game for money and betting money on a game aren’t quite the same thing. If this doesn’t fit the first part, then it doesn’t matter whether or not you use a device to place these bets, as you would with online sports betting, as the act itself has to fall within Rhode Island’s definition of prohibited gambling first.

Courts may still prefer to rely on a less strict definition should they lean that way, and this is why it is so important to carefully define the scope of the law to avoid ambiguity that may be decided more on the basis of a judge’s personal views than a rational analysis of the law as written.

It is quite likely that the authors of Rhode Island’s law just did not properly consider sports betting, as many states fail to do. Many will simply outlaw games of chance and nothing else, where sports betting is clearly not a game of chance but bets on games of pure skill.

Sports betting is not playing a game though, no more than buying securities is a game. Sports betting it is making bets, so at least with the proper interpretation of game, this reveals a miss for Rhode Island’s gambling laws, as they would very likely have preferred to ban everything commonly understood as gambling, especially given the strictness of the law overall.

Rhode Island’s law is not merely this strict, and they go even further than this with two other provisions. The first makes it a crime to frequent a gambling place, which is defined as any place where gambling is going on. Since this includes private gambling, this in theory could have members of your family arrested for you and a friend playing real money poker at the kitchen table, although in practice the state is really only interested in those whose presence in the location is related to the gambling itself, even if only to watch.

They do provide exceptions for public officials and landlords, and in practice, presumably those who already reside there, and these are the only people who are legally permitted to be found at a place where gambling is occurring.

There’s also the crime of inducing others to visit a gambling site, like for instance telling someone about one that you visited or even inviting your friends over for a game. This one requires that you induce them to gamble for things of value at a game of chance, which does bring up the usual problems with just using chance generally as a term, which leaves sports betting out for sure and may not even involve poker depending on whether it is understood to be a game of chance or not.

Rhode Island does not mess around with its maximum penalties, and being found to be participating in gambling in any way risks a fine of up to $2,000 and up to 2 years imprisonment. Being present at one of them is subject to imprisonment of up to 30 days, and promoting gambling will get you up to a $500 fine and up to 2 years in prison.

In spite of all this, there aren’t a whole lot of types of gambling that are not legal in Rhode Island, with the only real exception being online poker and online casino games. Given that online gambling is well beyond the reach of any state’s law, as long as people stick to legal land-based gambling, the lottery or at one of their two casinos, these laws which look so fierce only serve to prohibit underground gambling.

Land-Based Gambling in Rhode Island

The fact that Rhode Island is such a small state means that it really doesn’t have the size to support much in the way of land-based gambling venues. However, on a per capita basis, the state’s 200,000 square feet of gambling space spread over only a million people does stack up pretty well.

Most of this space is at the 162,000 square foot Twin River Casino Hotel, and this is no modest sized casino. It might not be anywhere near as big as neighboring Connecticut’s two mega Indian casinos, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, but both are among the biggest casinos in the world and aim at the New York City market, while Twin River serves Rhode Island.

Twin River does have a lot of gambling packed into it, with 4,200 slots as well as 125 casino table games, offering all of the popular casino games like blackjack, roulette, craps, and several variations of casino poker. You can now bet on sports at Twin River as well, and like with other forms of gambling, Rhode Island was at the front of the line among states once sports betting got put on the table.

The dog races may be gone, but the old Lincoln Downs never had it so good, going from a modest dog track that was closed for a long time to a pretty big casino by national standards, comparable to all but the biggest casinos in Vegas in terms of the size of their gaming floor.

The Twin River Casino Hotel is also a hotel, with 136 rooms and a planned expansion for more. They have a 3,600 square foot sports betting lounge with 100 TVs, and is also one of 8 locations on site that you can dine at. There’s also a poker room, a 29,000 square foot entertainment venue, meeting space, and a fitness center.

The Tiverton Casino is much smaller than the Twin Rivers, with only 33,000 square feet of gambling space, but they do have 1,000 slot machines and 32 casino table games, including blackjack, baccarat, craps, roulette, and several versions of casino poker. Like the Twin River Casino, the Tiverton also offers sports betting, although like with everything else, on a smaller scale.

This includes their 84 room hotel, and the fact that both these Rhode Island casinos are also hotels does show that they do cater to a fair number of tourists as well as locals. With everything in this state only a short drive away no matter where you are in it, both are well in reach of everyone, especially the Twin River which is located closer to the main population, and provide a good alternative to driving to Boston or central Connecticut.

Tiverton also has 2 full-service restaurants on site, a steakhouse and an Italian restaurant, as well as 4 fast food outlets including a burger joint, an Asian restaurant, a pizza parlor, and a coffee and donut shop. There are also meeting rooms and a bar with live entertainment.

Other than these two casinos, there isn’t anything else as far as land-based gambling goes in the state, although there is the Rhode Island Lottery if lotteries are to be considered to be land-based gambling. Considering its small size though, Rhode Island is pretty well served by what it does have.

  • List of Land Based Casinos in Rhode Island
    CasinoAddressPhone
    Tiverton Casino Hotel777 Tiverton Casino Blvd, Tiverton, RI 02878401-816-6000
    Twin River Casino Hotel100 Twin River Rd, Lincoln, RI 02865401-723-3200

Rhode Island Online Casinos & Slots Gambling

There are many states that are still waiting to approve their first real money online gambling sites, and this is actually most states these days in spite of how much progress that has been made on this front recently. Rhode Island is not among them though and jumped at the chance when the federal law preventing states from regulating sports betting was struck down in 2019, and ended up choosing the full package, both land-based and online sports betting.

Rhode Islanders can now bet on their favorite sporting events not only by visiting one of the state’s two casinos but also by using one of the two sports betting apps that have been approved for use by the state. This is being overseen by the Twin River Casino in a partnership with leading sports betting providers IGT and William Hill, giving players a choice and inviting competition.

Rhode Island actually only chose land-based sports betting originally, but when they quickly discovered that they were only capturing 3% of the state’s sports betting market, with 97% being held by offshore online sports betting operations, this served to wake them up and online sports betting was immediately added to their menu of options.

It only makes sense that online sports betting would have so much more market share, as sports bettors tend to bet on sports regularly and certainly do not want to drive to a casino every day to place their bets. They can now do it at a state regulated site rather than ones that are regulated in other parts of the world.

The fact that 30 times more sports bets were made online than at the state’s casinos prior to Rhode Island ever giving people permission to do this does reveal the fact that such things are not really up to a state. It is not that Rhode Island just got online sports betting, as this has been around for decades now, it’s that Rhode Island decided to take a seat at this table and offer their own approved sites to go along with everything else out there on the internet.

There’s also a market for real money online poker and real money online casino games in Rhode Island, but the state has not yet come to a decision to join this market with their own regulated sites. While playing on state regulated online gambling sites does have the advantage of allowing players more options to deposit and withdraw, its plenty easy enough to do at offshore sites and players will continue to enjoy all this with or without the state on board.

More state articles
Future of Gambling in Rhode Island

As far as land-based gambling goes, there really isn’t much room for improvement. This market is very well served in spite of their only being 2 places to play at. 2 is a low number of casinos for a state, but may even be the right amount for a state this small, especially given the relative impressiveness of Twin Rivers Casino Hotel.

There are few states that do not have any issues to iron out to see them seek their potential as far as land-based gambling goes, with only Nevada coming to mind. In New Jersey, considered to be the country’s most progressive state toward gambling next to Nevada, they are still wrestling with the idea of allowing casinos outside Atlantic City. They could use a lot more, while Rhode Island seems to have enough.

This is particularly the case given that Rhode Island now has regulated online gambling, which reaches into every corner of the state and brings gambling right to your computer or mobile device, anytime, anywhere. That’s the beauty of online gambling, where physical space no longer is relevant, turning the entire state into a gambling venue.

Rhode Island has yet to chosen to join the real money online poker and real money online casino scene, but this may just be a matter of time. The decision to agree to online sports betting was a purely practical one, wanting to profit from sports betting more, and not even in a way that was significantly offset by other concerns, not wanting it but wanting tax revenue and choosing to set aside their qualms.

These two other forms are currently not on the table, as Rhode Island digests its latest improvements, but this does not mean that Rhode Islanders have to wait, or could not have been doing this all along, since this betting first became available on the internet back in the 1990s.

When you need to travel to a physical location to gamble, states do control physical space within their borders, where people may be found to be gambling or assisting in gambling and be charged with breaking state gambling laws. The internet does not depend on such things though, and the virtual world is outside of the physical realm, and outside the view of the state as well.

They do not have legal online poker and casino in Rhode Island as of yet, but it’s legal to play in other places, outside the United States in locations where gambling is completely legal. You used to have to fly to these places, but thanks to the internet, you can now do that virtually instead of physically.

This just doesn’t open up opportunities now, as they were there all along, it’s just that not everyone has been wise to the idea. Now that you are, we can show you the best sites that accept Rhode Islanders if you wish to enjoy these other popular ways to gamble online, at sites that can be well trusted, just as if they were regulated by the state.

This serves to open up everything, where those who enjoy land-based casinos can choose among two very good ones, and those who wish to gamble at anything online can bet at Rhode Island approved sites when applicable, and elsewhere when not.

Rhode Island Online Slots & Casinos FAQs
  • When did Rhode Island get its first legal gambling?

    During the earlier part of Rhode Island’s history, which goes back almost 400 years from the time it was first colonized, public lotteries were very popular. These lotteries helped pay for a lot of public projects in the 17th and 18th centuries in Rhode Island. Opposition started to surface against gambling in the mid 19th century though, and by the end of the century, legal lotteries or any form of legal gambling were no more.

  • What did Rhode Island’s 1896 Gambling Law Prohibit?

    Rhode Island did not get its first anti-gambling law until over 250 years into its history as a settlement, and well over 100 years after it became a state. While the main intent of this law was to put an end to legal lotteries, the effect was to make all gambling in the state illegal, or even being present when gambling is occurring whether you are gambling or not. Poker and casino games are clearly included, while sports betting ended up being left out.

  • How has Rhode Island’s gambling law changed since it was first written?

    When reading Rhode Island’s current gambling law, there are a lot more references to lotteries than we normally see in modern gambling law. This is because that was the predominant form of gambling back when it was written, in 1896, and this law remains in its original form today. It is not all that unusual for the gambling laws in some other states to rely on very old laws in their original form though, as evidenced by their using 19th century games as examples.

  • Why is Rhode Island gambling law so strict?

    To look at how harsh Rhode Island’s gambling laws are, you might think that this is a state that is opposed as any state to gambling, perhaps even more so. This law not only makes real money gambling itself illegal, you can also go to jail for just telling someone about a gambling location or just being there watching. This all goes back to the period in which these laws were written, a time long ago when opposition to gambling was fierce enough to produce these laws.

  • How progressive is Rhode Island toward gambling in practice?

    In spite of the strictness and sheer scope of its gambling laws, Rhode Island is among the most progressive states in the country toward gambling. While the lottery was popular in the American colonies, Rhode Island hung on to them a century after becoming a state. Rhode Island was also at the front of the line as various forms of gambling became popular, including pari-mutuel betting, the lottery, casino games, and both land-based and online sports betting.

  • What land-based gambling options does Rhode Island offer?

    The Rhode Island Lottery was one of the first lotteries in the country and has been selling tickets since 1973. Rhode Island used to have both a horse and dog track for many years, but it’s been many years since either of these tracks has been opened. One of them has a large casino hotel sitting on the property though, with a Vegas-sized casino, as well as a second casino hotel, both offering a full range of casino games.

  • Does Rhode Island have legal sports betting yet?

    Given that Rhode Island is one of the more open minded states, and open minded states jumped at the chance to offer regulated sports betting once this became a possibility when the federal legislation blocking this was struck down in 2018, it wasn’t surprising that Rhode Island was among them. Rhode Islanders can now place bets on their favorite games at either land-based casino, as well as by doing so through 2 different online betting apps approved by the state.

  • Are there any plans on expanding real money online gambling in Rhode Island?

    A lot of states have limited their entry into the world of state regulated online gambling to just sports betting, so Rhode Island is far from alone in this regard. Only a very few of the most progressive states allow all three major forms of real money gambling, and Rhode Island has not reached this point as of yet. While there are no plans to go beyond real money online sports betting in Rhode Island at this point, we may see this soon anyway as the state’s appetite increases.

  • How can Rhode Island improve their gambling landscape?

    When we consider the size of Rhode Island’s casino space relative to their population, Rhode Island is already pretty well served as things stand. A lot of casino expansion is intended to bring casino gambling closer to more people, having them avoid driving too far, but both of Rhode Island’s casinos are in easy reach of everyone in the state. The only real thing missing is real money online poker and casino gambling.

  • Is there a good reason why Rhode Islanders cannot gamble at these other online games?

    While Rhode Island may wish that their residents gamble at only sites that the state approves of such as the two sports gambling apps that they have given their approval to, it turns out that they do not have any say at all in the matter in practice. People choose to gamble online with or without the state’s permission, as this does not matter, and there are several great sites located elsewhere that are happy to accept Rhode Islanders. We can show you such places.

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Lead Writer: Toby is a very experienced online gambler who particularly enjoys sharing his knowledge with others and guiding them toward more enjoyment in their own play.