Industry News of the Day for July 21, 2020

iDEA Growth in the News:

  • Gambling Compliance, 7.20.20 – Rhode Island Deals Another Blow To In-Person Registration (Full text at bottom of page)
    • Rhode Island has joined Illinois in abandoning an in-person registration requirement for online sports betting in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, but advocates of remote registration insist their battle is not yet won.

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  • Sports Handle, 7.20.20 – Washington State Gambling Commission Prepping For Sports Betting Rule Making
    • Late Friday afternoon, the Washington State Gambling Commission voted 3-0 to open the legal sports betting rule-making process and agreed to move forward with a request to the state legislature to forgive or extend repayment of a $6 million loan that is part of the new sports betting law.

Rhode Island Deals Another Blow To In-Person Registration

  • Rhode Island legislature passes bills to allow remote registration of mobile sports-betting accounts
  • Some 14,000 online betting accounts yet to be activated as players have not visited a casino
  • Move follows Illinois governor’s suspension of in-person registration requirement

Rhode Island has joined Illinois in abandoning an in-person registration requirement for online sports betting in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, but advocates of remote registration insist their battle is not won yet.

Both houses of Rhode Island’s General Assembly voted late Thursday to pass legislation to delete a provision from the state’s sports-betting law that currently requires mobile wagering accounts to be established in  person at one of two land-based casinos.

To become law, one of either House Bill 8097 or Senate Bill 2919 now just needs to be signed by Governor Gina Raimondo — a fait accompli given that Raimondo’s administration lobbied for the change.

Once approved, it will take around a month for the Rhode Island Lottery to implement remote registration for its Sportsbook Rhode Island online betting platform, said Paul Grimaldi, a lottery spokesperson in the state’s Department of Revenue.

Since online betting launched last September, some 14,000 players, or 45 percent of all sign-ups, still have not visited a casino to activate their accounts, lottery officials said in a presentation to lawmakers last week.

In states with remote registration, around 75 percent of players creating accounts go on to make deposits and place bets.

Grimaldi said allowing remote registration is “one part of the effort the Rhode Island Lottery and its partners take to minimize the effects of COVID-19 among those who interact with the gaming options available in Rhode Island.”

“Like any new product, player feedback is important. We’ve worked with our partners to improve the sports-betting experience since it launched,” Grimaldi added in an email to VIXIO GamblingCompliance. “The evolution of player registration to a fully remote process … is part of that effort as we work to provide the best possible player experience.”

Rhode Island’s move, made during a special session of the legislature convened to address coronavirus, means three of the four states that require in-person registration for online betting accounts are now moving toward a remote sign-up process.

Last month, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker issued an emergency order to suspend his state’s own in-person registration requirement for online sports betting due to the state of emergency declared to tackle COVID-19.

Although Illinois’ land-based casinos have since reopened, remote registration will be allowed until at least July 26 and could be continued for as long as a formal state of disaster endures.

In Iowa, a similar requirement to activate accounts at a casino will expire on December 31, potentially leaving Nevada as the only state with an in-person registration requirement by year-end.

Still, online betting advocates opposed to in-person registration expect that states will continue to consider copying the Nevada model.

Various states including Kentucky, Connecticut and Missouri have considered bills either this year or last that would require online betting accounts to be established at land-based gaming facilities.

“While the walls seem to be crumbling around in-person registration, there will always be some land-based operators that will insist on it as a way to attract customers at their properties and keep a competitive advantage,” said John Pappas, a government affairs consultant and spokesperson for the iDEA Growth association of U.S.-facing online gambling companies.

“We will need to continue to educate lawmakers that remote registration is what their constituents want and will lead to considerably more tax revenue for the state,” Pappas told VIXIO GamblingCompliance.

“The new realities of social distancing hopefully makes the merits of fully-remote registration even easier for lawmakers to digest.”

Remote registration is not the only legal change set to be triggered by the new legislation passed last week in Rhode Island.

In addition, the legislation will require mobile sports bettors to be geolocated within Rhode Island only when they are actually placing a wager.

The current law requires geolocation whenever a player logs on to the lottery’s Sportsbook Rhode Island platform, which is powered by William Hill US and IGT.

In theory, that would appear to make it easier for residents of nearby states, including Massachusetts, to log on to select their bets at home before clicking to place them once physically located in Rhode Island.