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Massachusetts is about to eat Rhode Island’s lunch in sports betting

The FanDuel sports betting app.Angus Mordant/Bloomberg

You could have legally wagered on Providence College basketball today in Massachusetts … if the Friars hadn’t lost to UConn yesterday afternoon in the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden.

Later this morning, online sports betting will go live in Massachusetts, and just in time for March Madness, our neighbors to the north have a system that is going to be a serious rival to Rhode Island.

The reason: choice.

In Rhode Island, there’s only one game in town. It’s the Sportsbook RI app, which uses generic stock photos of athletes because there is no chance that any celebrity or former athlete would ever lend their likeness to such a bad system. The state doesn’t currently allow competing companies like DraftKings, FanDuel, or Barstool to operate.


My colleague Michael Silverman reports that Massachusetts is going to have six operators online beginning at 10 a.m.: DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, WynnBet, Barstool Sportsbook, and Caesars Sportsbook. And there are more on the way later this year.

Those companies are offering significant (some would call predatory) new customer bonuses, something Rhode Island also doesn’t do.

There’s a good chance that Massachusetts’ arrival in the sports betting arena in the region is going to threaten Rhode Island’s revenue because Rhode Islanders who enjoy placing wagers on sports aren’t going to hesitate to drive to Seekonk to place wagers with the more notable operators.

Between July and January, the Sportsbook RI app accepted $206 million in wagers, far more than the $126.6 million in bets placed at Bally’s Twin River and Tiverton casinos. In some states, like New York, 99 percent of all sports betting revenue is from online operators. The vast majority of Massachusetts’ sports betting revenue is likely to come online as well.

How will Rhode Island compete?

IGT’s sports betting contract with the state ends in November, according to The Providence Journal. But it’s unclear if state leaders are going to allow other companies to operate here.


Senate President Dominick Ruggerio has also introduced legislation that would allow Rhode Islanders to wager on local college teams in preseason and postseason tournaments only, which means you could bet on the Friars in the NCAA Tournament, but not on a random game during the regular season (Massachusetts already allows this).

This story first appeared in Rhode Map, our free newsletter about Rhode Island that also contains information about local events, data about the coronavirus in the state, and more. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.

Dan McGowan can be reached at Follow him @danmcgowan.