Rhode Island casinos reopen, books quiet

As the coronavirus pandemic is slowly on the downward trend here on the East Coast, Rhode Island’s two casinos, Twin River Casino Hotel in Lincoln and Tiverton Casino Hotel Tiverton, officially re-opened its doors to the public on Monday.

The Phase One stage is in full effect, meaning that entrance into either casino will be by invitation plus one guest only. Casino officials expect capacity will not exceed 25 percent of its fire code capacity.

Both casinos will offer slot machines at a safe distance of at least six-feet apart, and will offer stadium gaming, or virtual table games, with limited seating capacity. Both sportsbooks (powered by William Hill), hotels, fitness centers, table games, race book, event center, valet, entertainment offerings and restaurants will remain closed and are not part of the Phase One re-opening stage.

“We are opening our Rhode Island properties in a very soft, safe way. We have worked closely with our state regulators, Governor and Department of Health to ensure we meet or exceed all safety guidelines,” said Patti Doyle, spokeswoman for Twin River Casino in Lincoln, the larger of the state’s two properties.

“We’re thrilled to open and to welcome back our guests albeit on a highly-limited basis. But we believe it is the absolute right approach. We want our employees and guests to be at ease in our properties, confident that protocols are in place to keep them safe.”

One week ago, the sportsbooks received a boost as a judge denied a request by Daniel Harrop, a Republican activist, to halt sports betting in the state of Rhode Island. Harrop had said in his complaint filed last year that sports betting at the state’s two casinos and online violates the state Constitution because it was not approved by voters.

Judge Brian Stern agreed with Democratic Governor Gina Raimondo’s administration, which had argued that voters gave the go-ahead for sports betting when they approved table games at Twin River’s casino in Tiverton.

“The court finds that based on the plain language of the referenda questions and the definition of casino gaming … voters had ‘fair notice’ that they were broadly approving all casino gaming and any other game included within the definition of Class III gaming,” Stern wrote in his response.

Harrop’s attorney, Joseph Larisa Jr., said it will be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Handle in the Ocean State fell to just $591,377 in April, down 93.4 percent from March, according to Rhode Island’s Lottery monthly state report.

Sports betting revenue in April was just $27,381, 96.7 percent off from March.

Part of the huge dropoff stemmed from the fact the state requires in-person registration to create a mobile betting account. That meant anyone who did not have a sports betting account before both casinos closed on March 14 couldn’t open one, even if they wanted to bet on limited options and offerings. Therefore, no new customers could be added.

Doyle clarified that no new signups for a sports betting app will be available until the book itself reopens.

“We were completely aligned with the state’s position on the ability to offer sports betting at both our Rhode Island casinos and not at all surprised by the court ruling,” said Doyle. “Although the sportsbooks are not open during this phase, we are re-imagining ways to effectively address safety concerns in those confined spaces that are still closed to the public.”

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