Lawsuit Would Stop Sports Betting
In 2018, the General Assembly of Rhode Island passed legislation legalizing sports betting at the two casinos in the state, the Twin River Casino and the Tiverton Casino. Governor Gina Raimondo signed the bill into law and betting began in November 2018.
Soon afterward, it was realized that the earnings were less than estimated. To bring in more funds, lawmakers approved online sports betting in March 2019.
When land-based and online sports betting were proposed, state officials cited opinions generated by the gambling industry that voters had already approved the option when voting for table games back in 2012 and 2016. Those ballot propositions included Class 3 gaming.
A Republican-led group now disputes that decision. A lawsuit was filed this week by a former Providence mayoral candidate, Dr. Daniel Harrop against the state. The filing argues that voter approval is required to legalize any form of gambling expansion.
The lawsuit claims that a referendum should have been placed on the ballot specifically referring to sports betting to be approved by voters before moving forward. Among lawyers representing Harrop are former state Republican chair Brandon Bell, former East Providence Mayor Joe Larisa Jr., and former Republican Governor Lincoln Almond.
Larisa, who is also a Republican, said: “This isn’t an anti-sports betting suit. It isn’t an anti-online sports betting suit. We are just saying let the people vote. If one provision of our Constitution is, ‘eh, we’ll disregard it this time’, then all provisions of our Constitution are in jeopardy.”
Response to the Lawsuit
After the lawsuit was filed, Governor Raimondo’s office responded via email. Spokesman Josh Block said that several legal opinions affirmed that sports betting had already been approved by voters. Revenue from the new industry supports investments in several sectors, including infrastructure, health care, and education. The Governor’s office expressed confidence that the decision regarding sports betting will be upheld in a court of law.
The lottery has plans to continue developing a mobile application for sports betting operations as well as an online betting portal as the case is pending. The lawsuit against the state was filed in Superior Court, but the attorneys for the plaintiff expect it will end up in the State Supreme Court.
According to VSO News, rumors of legal action began circulating a few months ago regarding sports betting in the state. Brandon Bell, then the state’s Republican Party chair, had stated previously that the group was actively seeking to file a lawsuit against the state regarding sports betting.