With the endorsement of Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, a rapidly advancing bill proposes to double the gambling credit limit at Rhode Island’s two state-run casinos, operated by Bally’s, to $100,000. This move has raised several questions among stakeholders.

Key issues include the rationale behind this proposal, Bally’s ability to monitor the gambling habits of online players and those visiting tribal casinos nearby, and the broader implications of this newly introduced legislation, according to The Providence Journal.

Bally’s representative, Elizabeth Suever, addressed the Senate Committee on Special Legislation, stating, “Obviously we’re not interested in extending lines of credit to those individuals who would not be able to pay it back,” as she defended the comprehensive bill presented on May 2.

State-sponsored gambling, including activities at the Bally’s-run casinos in Lincoln and Tiverton, represents Rhode Island’s third largest revenue source, with a projected $428.8 million in gambling revenue expected this year. This makes the issue particularly significant for taxpayers.

At last week’s hearing, no representatives from the Rhode Island Lottery, the state’s gambling control body, or the Council on Problem Gambling were present to comment on the bill introduced well beyond the Senate’s bill submission deadline by Senate President Ruggerio. A spokesperson for Ruggerio clarified: “The bill was introduced at the request of Bally’s to keep them on par with competition from casinos in Massachusetts.”

A corresponding House bill is scheduled for a hearing this Thursday. This bill also seeks to empower the state’s Department of Business Regulation to alter terms in the latest operating agreement with Bally’s without needing legislative approval.

Some Rhode Island senators expressed surprise that the new bill’s language was not highlighted in “blue,” a standard practice for new legislative text. They were unsatisfied with Suever’s explanation that this type of legislation technically does not require legislative approval.

Tough Competition from Casinos in Connecticut and Massachusetts

Suever emphasized the necessity of the bill: “We want to make sure that, as the operator of the two casinos for the state of Rhode Island, we’re doing everything that we can to be regionally competitive. By that I mean competitive with those casinos that are in Connecticut, which are some of the largest casinos in the United States, and Massachusetts.”

Although Bally’s already has high-limit gaming rooms, Suever mentioned that players have complained about not receiving the same level of credit in Rhode Island as in Massachusetts, where there is no credit limit. While Connecticut’s tribal casinos independently determine their credit issuance, Suever proposed that increasing Rhode Island’s limit from $50,000 to $100,000 would be “an amenity for our players that play very high limits because they don’t want to be carrying that amount of cash on their person as they’re coming and going from the casino.”

She assured that this increased limit would apply to a “very, very limited amount of players” and would only be available to those gambling in person, not through online gaming.

Suever did not discuss the financial performance of the casinos. While state revenues from the Rhode Island Lottery’s games have increased year-over-year, the state’s share from video slots and table games at the two casinos has declined, with Tiverton’s table game revenue down 8.2% and Lincoln’s down 3.2%.

To qualify for the proposed $100,000 credit limit, players must go through the following steps: file a credit application, then undergo bank account checks and credit history evaluations, provide two forms of identification and use a player number to track their gambling activity and history at local casinos.