Rhode Island may be the smallest state in the nation, but its residents have access to a wide range of gambling options. Horse race betting was legalized in 1934, but both of the local racetracks were closed down in the 1970s due to financial difficulties. In 1973, Rhode Island amended its constitution and launched a state lottery. Further referendums authorized pull-tab games and bingo. Horse race betting was also re-introduced to the state via off-track betting facilities at Newport Jai Alai and Lincoln Park. In 1992, the General Assembly allowed VLTs at those facilities in response to Foxwoods Resort Casino being opened in Connecticut. However, table games wouldn’t be introduced to the state until 2012. In 2003, Newport Jai Alai was converted into a VLT parlor, which was ultimately closed down in 2018 to make room for a new casino in Tiverton. Lincoln Park was renamed Twin River Casino in 2007 and remains open to this day.
It’s worth noting that Rhode Island was the first state to hold hearings pertaining to legal sports betting when the Supreme Court struck down the federal PASPA ban on this form of gambling. The bill authorizing the local casinos to begin offering sports betting services was signed by Gov. Gina Raimondo on June 22, 2018. Internet betting was initially off-limits, but in March 2019 the House voted in favor of allowing sportsbooks to offer online betting and betting on the go. The new services are expected to launch in September or October this year.
Rhode Island regulations define gambling as “directly or indirectly setting up, publicly or privately, any chance, game or device for the purpose of disposing of money, or assisting others in such actions.” The law is focused on illegal gambling operators and their employees. Participating in unauthorized games isn’t explicitly prohibited, but acting as a dealer, banker, or lookout carries a sentence of up to two years in jail and a fine of up to $5,000. Even promoting illegal gambling is considered a felony and is punishable by up to two years in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
Rhode Island lawmakers haven’t authorized casino-style online gambling or poker so far, so local gambling enthusiasts don’t have access to any legal, reliable sites.
All gambling-related matters are covered by Rhode Island General Laws, § 11-19-1 et seq. and § 41-3-1 et seq. The minimum gambling age is 18.
Rhode Island General Laws
Gambling and Lotteries
§ 11-19-1 Forms of gambling prohibited.
Every person who shall, directly or indirectly, set up, put forth, carry on, promote, or draw, publicly or privately, any lottery, chance, game, or device of any nature or kind whatsoever, or by whatsoever name it may be called, for the purpose of exposing, setting for sale or disposing of any money, houses, lands, merchandise, or articles of value, or shall sell or expose to sale lottery policies, purporting to be governed by the drawing of any public or private lottery, or shall sign or endorse any book, document, or paper whatsoever, for the purpose of enabling others to sell, or expose to sale, lottery policies, except as authorized in this chapter and in title 41 and chapters 61 and 61.2 of title 42, shall be deemed guilty of a felony and shall be imprisoned not exceeding two (2) years or be fined not exceeding two thousand dollars ($2,000).
§ 11-19-1.1 Lotteries permitted.
Any state, city, town, ward, or district committee elected pursuant to the provisions of title 17 or certified candidates, but not both, as defined in title 17, shall be allowed to conduct that lottery commonly known as a “twenty (20) week club” or conduct a raffle once within a twelve (12) month period subsequent to notification to the Rhode Island lottery commission. For the purposes of this section a “certified candidate” does not include any state, city, town, ward, or district committee person.
§ 11-19-2 Unauthorized sale of lottery tickets.
Every person not authorized by the Rhode Island state police who shall sell or expose to sale any ticket, or certificate in the nature of a ticket, or share in any ticket or certificate in the nature of a ticket, in any lottery set up within or without this state, shall be fined for every such ticket, certificate or share of the ticket or certificate by that person sold or exposed to sale not exceeding fifty dollars ($50.00).
§ 11-19-3 Instruments given for lottery tickets void.
All notes, obligations, securities, or promises whatsoever, given for the purchase of any lottery ticket or certificate, lottery policy, or of any document or paper taken or received for the purpose of enabling others to sell or dispose of lottery tickets or lottery policies, shall be null and void.
§ 11-19-4 Recovery of lottery ticket value by holder.
The purchaser or receiver of any lottery ticket or certificate in the nature of a lottery ticket, or share in either, not authorized by the Rhode Island state police whether it shall have been paid for in money, or however received, even though by way of gift, for the purpose of enabling the seller or giver to dispose of any article or piece of property, real, personal, or mixed, shall recover back the amount paid by him or her, or the value at which, according to the proof, the ticket or certificate may be reckoned in the transaction, as the case may be, from the person from whom the ticket or policy was purchased or received, in an action of the case for money had and received.
§ 11-19-5 Acts in aid of policy game.
Whoever not authorized by the Rhode Island state police keeps, sets up, promotes, or is concerned as owner, agent clerk, or in any other manner, in managing any policy-lottery or policy-shop, or writes, prints, sells, transfers, or delivers any ticket, certificate, slip, bill, token, or other device purporting or designed to guarantee or assure to any person, or to entitle any person to a chance of drawing or obtaining any prize or thing of value to be drawn in any lottery, or in the game or device commonly known as policy-lottery or policy, or for that person or another person writes, prints, sells, or transfers or delivers, or has in his or her possession for the purpose of sale, transfer, or delivery, or in any way aids in selling, exchanging, negotiating, transferring, or delivering, a chance or ticket in any lottery, or in the game or device commonly known as policy-lottery or policy, or any such bill, slip, certificate, token, or other device, or who sells or offers to sell what are commonly called lottery-policies, or who endorses a book or other document, for the purpose of enabling others to sell or offer to sell lottery-policies, or shall receive, register, record, forward or purport or pretend to forward, or undertake to forward, or receive, and agree to forward, to or for a lottery, or to or for any particular lottery, or to any person, within or without this state, any money, thing, or consideration of value, to purchase an interest or share in any lottery, or to obtain or secure for any person what is commonly called a lottery-policy, or a chance of drawing or obtaining any prize or thing of value to be drawn in any lottery, or in the game or device commonly called policy-lottery or policy, or who shall receive or offer to receive any money, thing, or consideration of value to be forwarded to or for a lottery, or to or for any particular lottery, or to any person to invest in a lottery within or outside this state, whether it actually exists or not, or whether any drawing of it, or any act to allot any prize or thing of value, takes place or not, or whether there is any such person or not, or whoever shall have in his or her possession, knowingly, any bill, slip, certificate, token, or other device, or article of any kind such as is used in carrying on, promoting, or playing the game commonly known as policy-lottery or policy, shall, upon conviction, be punished by fine not exceeding five hundred dollars ($500) or imprisonment not exceeding one year, and upon a second conviction of a violation of this section shall be imprisoned for a period not less than one nor more than five (5) years. Provided, that the prohibition against possession of these items shall not apply to lottery tickets of any kind if the state of origin of the tickets or devices has legally authorized its issuance or sale.
§ 11-19-6 Possession of policy devices as evidence of knowledge.
The possession, by any person not authorized by the Rhode Island state police other than a public official in the course of his or her duty, of any bill, slip, certificate, token, or other device, or article of any kind such as is used in carrying on, promoting, or playing the game commonly known as lottery-policy or policy, shall be presumptive evidence of possession of that item knowingly and in violation of § 11-19-5.
§ 11-19-7 Judicial notice of policy methods.
Any court or magistrate having criminal jurisdiction may take judicial notice of the general methods and character of lotteries, policy-lotteries, of the game called policy, pools, or combination bets, and the buying and selling of pools and registering of bets, not authorized by the Rhode Island state police.
§ 11-19-8 Policy devices as evidence of existence of game. –
In the trial of a complaint or indictment to which it may be relevant any lottery, policy, or pool ticket, certificate, slip, or check, manifold, or other policy or pool book or sheet, or memorandum of any pool or sale of pools, or of a bet or odds, or combination bet, or any other implement, apparatus, materials, or articles of a character commonly employed in or in connection with lotteries, policy-lotteries, or policy, the buying or selling of pools, or registering of bets, or other form of gaming not authorized by the Rhode Island state police shall be prima facie evidence of the existence and unlawful character of a lottery, policy-lottery, or game, pool or pools, bet, game, or hazard, or other form of gaming in which like articles are commonly used, and that the article has relation to it.
§ 11-19-8 Policy devices as evidence of existence of game….
§ 11-19-9 Illegal trading stamps and coupons.
All schemes and devices by which any person or corporation shall sell, give, or distribute any stamp, trading-stamp, cash discount stamp, amusement stamp, check, coupon, or other similar device to any purchaser of goods, wares, or merchandise, which will entitle the holder of the stamp, trading-stamp, cash discount stamp, amusement stamp, check, coupon, or other similar device, on presentation of it, either singly or in definite numbers, to receive either directly from the vendor or indirectly through any other person or corporation, some indefinite and undescribed article, the nature and value of which are unknown to the purchaser of the goods, wares, and merchandise at the time of the purchase of the merchandise, are declared to partake so much of the nature of a lottery as to be detrimental to the public morals, and are declared to be illegal.
§ 11-19-13 Door prizes exempt.
Nothing in §§ 11-19-1 – 11-19-4 or in §§ 11-19-9 – 11-19-11 shall be deemed to prohibit or make illegal the annual or semiannual distribution by chance, of prizes, souvenirs, or favors by any club, society, lodge, or association at its dance, dinner, entertainment, or outing where the distribution is purely incidental to the dance, dinner, entertainment or outing or when the entire net proceeds of the dance, dinner, entertainment or outing is devoted to charity, if the club, society, lodge or association has first obtained the written permission for the distribution, in towns, from the town sergeant, in cities, from the police commission or police commissioner, if there is such an official, otherwise from the chief of police of the town or city where the dance, dinner, entertainment or outing is held, and that permitting authority is authorized to grant the permit when he or she is satisfied that the distribution comes within this section.
§ 11-19-14 Bookmaking.
Except as provided in chapter 4 of title 41, any person who shall engage in pool selling or bookmaking, … upon the result of any trial or contest of skill, speed or power of endurance of man or beast, or upon the result of any political nomination, appointment, or election, or, being the owner or lessee or occupant of any room, tent, tenement, shed, booth, or building, or part of them, knowingly shall permit it to be used or occupied for any of these purposes, … or who shall aid, assist or abet in any manner in any of the acts forbidden by this section, …shall upon conviction be punished by a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars ($500) or imprisonment not exceeding one year, and upon a second conviction of a violation of this section shall be imprisoned for a period not less than one nor more than five (5) years.
§ 11-19-18 Keeping of gambling places or devices – Acting as dealer, banker, or lookout.
Every person who shall keep or suffer to be kept any building, room, booth, shed, tent, arbor, or any other place, or any automobile, bus, coach, van, truck, trainer, railway or railroad car, or any other vehicle in any city or town of this state, or in any vessel, boat, or raft upon any of the waters of Narragansett Bay, to be used or occupied for the purpose of gambling, or playing at any game or games of chance of any kind whatsoever, for money or other valuable consideration, or shall keep, exhibit, or suffer to be kept or exhibited upon premises or in a vehicle belonging to that person under his or her control, any cards, dice, table, bowls, wheel of fortune, shuffleboard, or billiard table, or any device, implement, or apparatus whatsoever to be used in gambling or playing at any game or games of chance for money or other valuable consideration, or who shall be guilty of dealing Faro, or banking for others to deal Faro, or acting as lookout, gamekeeper, or assistant for the game of Faro or any other banking game where money or property is dependent on the result, shall be taken and held to be a common gambler and shall be imprisoned not exceeding two (2) years or be fined not exceeding five thousand dollars ($5,000) nor less than five hundred dollars ($500).
§ 11-19-19 Revocation of license of gambling place.
If a person in violation of § 11-19-18 is a tavernkeeper, innholder, retailer, or keeper of any other house or place of public resort which is licensed, that license shall in addition be declared null and void by the court in which he or she shall be convicted.
§ 11-19-20 Inducing others to visit gambling place.
Every person who shall, on any pretext whatsoever, invite, entice, persuade, or induce any other person to visit any house, room, or other place kept for the purpose of gambling, with the intent that that other person shall at that place engage in gambling or playing at any game of chance, for money or other valuable consideration, shall be fined not less than five hundred dollars ($500) and be imprisoned one year.
§ 11-19-21 Frequenting gambling place.
Every person who shall frequent any gambling house or place where gaming is practiced or carried on, not in the performance of official duty and not being the landlord of that place entering to view the premises, shall be imprisoned not exceeding thirty (30) days.
§ 11-19-22 Renting for gambling purposes.
Every person who shall let or knowingly permit to be occupied any house, shop, or place belonging to or under the control of that person, to be used as a gambling house or place where gambling is carried on, or as a place where pools are sold, shall be fined not exceeding five hundred dollars ($500).
§ 11-19-23 Lease voided by gambling.
Every lease of any house, shop, or place used as a gambling house or place where gaming is practiced or carried on, or where pools are bought or sold, shall be void, and no notice to the occupant other than a demand for the possession of the premises, shall be necessary to eject the occupant.
§ 11-19-30 Definitions.
The following definitions apply within this chapter:
(a) “Charitable organization” means any benevolent, educational, philanthropic, humane, patriotic, social service, civic, fraternal, police, labor, religious, eleemosynary person, and/or persons holding themselves out to be a charitable organization.
(b) “Charitable purpose” means any benevolent, educational, humane, patriotic, social service, civic, fraternal, police, labor, religious, or eleemosynary purpose, provided that no part of the net earnings inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual.
(c) “Department” means the division of state police unless otherwise described.
(d) “Director” means the superintendent of state police or the director’s designee.
(e) “Permitted game of chance” means the game commonly known as “Bingo” or “Beano” or substantially the same game under any other name, or a raffle or lottery or that lottery commonly known as a “twenty (20) week club”.
§ 11-19-32 Operation of bingo games.
Any charitable organization approved by the department may promote, carry on, or conduct the game of bingo provided as follows:
(1) The game is conducted by members of the organization.
(2) No person in the actual or constructive management and control of the game receives any compensation for services connected to the game or receives any compensation from the gross receipts of the game.
(3) The entire net receipts of the game are applied solely to the charitable purposes of the organization. All expenses deducted from gross receipts must be reasonable and related to the actual conduct of the game.
(4) The total amount of all expenses deducted from the gross receipts shall not exceed twenty-five percent (25%) of the total annual gross receipts raised through bingo, not including monies raised through the sale of pull-tab lottery tickets.
(5) The total prizes, in the form of cash and/or retail merchandise including prizes from winner-take-all games, which are offered or awarded do not exceed the sum of seven thousand five hundred dollars ($7,500) in any one night.
(6) The game is carried on or conducted not more than twice in any period of one calendar week under a license issued pursuant to the provisions of § 11-19-37.
(7) That there be only one sponsor for each date of the proposed game and that the game shall be conducted only on the premises affiliated with the organization in conformance with rules and regulations.
(8) That any building in which a game is played or conducted shall be used no more than three (3) times in any calendar week for conducting a game, and that no annex or subdivision of any building shall be permitted to be used to conduct a game in an attempt to increase the number of times the building may be used for bingo purposes.
(9) The organization shall keep and maintain financial records relating to the game in accordance with rules and regulations and have the records available for inspection upon demand.
(10) Payment of a prize in excess of two hundred fifty dollars ($250) shall be made by check.
(11) “Winner-take-all” games are prohibited, with the exception that each organization shall be permitted to play one optional “winner-take-all” game per night.
(12) No person under the age of eighteen (18) years shall be permitted to play the game.
(13) Notwithstanding any regulation to the contrary, any approved charitable organization conducting a lawful game of bingo pursuant to the provisions of this section shall be permitted to advertise their game in print media. As used in this chapter, “advertise” means an advertisement or announcement in print media containing the date, time, and place of the game, the charitable organization sponsoring and/or benefiting from the game, whether the game shall provide for a bonus building/prize pool, and the total amount of the prize pool as set forth in subdivision (14) of this section.
(14) The game may provide for a bonus building/prize pool which would start at five hundred dollars ($500) and increase at one hundred dollar ($100) increments each week until it reaches a maximum amount of one thousand dollars ($1000).
(15) Game workers may be compensated with a non-monetary gift, valued at not more than twenty-five dollars ($25.00) per quarter and/or a total of one hundred dollars ($100) per year. Beverages and food provided without charge to volunteer workers at the game of bingo shall not be considered to be compensation for purposes of the subsection.
§ 11-19-32.1 Senior citizens housing – Bingo allowed.
(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter to the contrary, any organization of senior citizens may promote, carry on or conduct within their own senior citizens housing project, a bingo game, with total daily prizes not to exceed four hundred dollars ($400). The game shall be for recreational purposes and shall be open only to senior citizens who are residents of the housing project where the game is held. Bingo games shall be limited to three (3) days per calendar week and shall be operated and managed solely by residents of the housing projects.
(b) Except that in the City of Woonsocket, residents’ and their guests’ admission to a bingo game shall only be by admission ticket which may be purchased only by a resident. Each resident shall be allowed to purchase one ticket for a guest. The guest ticket must clearly indicate that the holder is a guest and must be purchased at least three (3) hours prior to the start of the bingo game.
§ 11-19-34.1 Senior citizens housing – Raffles allowed.
Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter to the contrary, any organization of senior citizens may promote, carry on, or conduct within their own senior citizens housing project, a lottery, commonly known as a raffle, with total prizes not to exceed five hundred dollars ($500). Raffles shall be for recreational purposes and shall be open only to senior citizens who are residents of the housing project where the game is held. Raffles shall be limited to three (3) times per year and shall be operated and managed solely by residents of the housing projects.
§ 11-19-35 Pull-tab lottery tickets.
(a) The Rhode Island lottery commission is empowered to sell and regulate the sale of pull-tab lottery tickets to religious, fraternal, civic, educational, veterans’, or charitable organizations. The commission shall determine, consistent with this section, those organizations that are authorized to sell pull-tab lottery tickets and shall insure that the pull tab lottery tickets to be distributed are secured for the purposes under which they are to be sold in terms of concealing the result of the tickets until the time that they are sold to the general public. Consistent with this section, those organizations authorized to sell the tickets are authorized to retain net profits as shall have been provided for by the commission.
(b) Notwithstanding any other section of the general laws to the contrary, pull-tab lottery tickets authorized by this section are declared to be legal.
§ 11-19-36 Organizations permitted to conduct other permitted games of chance.
Any charitable organization may promote, carry on, or conduct any permitted game of chance authorized by the division of state police in connection with which prizes or prize monies are offered or awarded, provided as follows:
(1) The game is conducted by members of the organization.
(2) No person in the actual or constructive management and control of the game receives any compensation for services connected to the game.
(3) The entire net receipts of the game, including the charges for admission to and participation in the game, are applied solely to the bona fide charitable purposes of the organization.
(4) That the organization is granted a license issued pursuant to the provisions of § 11-19-37.
(5) That the provisions of this section shall not apply to that lottery commonly known as a “twenty-week club” or a raffle conducted by a charitable organization.
§ 11-19-37 Issuance of licenses.
(a) Any charitable organization within the provisions of §§ 11-19-30 and/or 11-19-31 may be granted a license to conduct the game of bingo or other permitted game of chance authorized by the department.
(b) Bingo. A license for the game of bingo shall be obtained as follows:
(1) The charitable organization shall annually apply for approval to the department pursuant to § 11-19-31 and shall pay to the department an application fee of five dollars ($5.00).
(2) Upon the receipt of notification of approval from the department, the charitable organization shall apply to the local licensing authorities upon forms furnished and pay the local licensing fee, if any;
(3) The local licensing authority shall issue the license. A copy of the license shall be forwarded to the department by the local licensing authority;
(4) The local licensing authority shall issue the license for a specific date or dates or a specific day or days during each calendar week;
(5) Within seven (7) calendar days of the completion of every game of bingo, the charitable organization shall file a financial report, upon forms furnished by the department with the department and with the local licensing authority if it so requires.
(1) The charitable organization shall apply for approval to the department pursuant to this section and shall pay to the department an application fee of five dollars ($5.00).
(2) Upon the receipt of a notification of approval from the department, the charitable organization shall apply to the local licensing authority upon forms furnished by the department and pay the local licensing fee, if any;
(3) The local licensing authority shall issue the license. A copy of the license shall be forwarded to the department by the local licensing authority;
(4) The local licensing authority shall issue the license for a specific date or specific day or days;
(5) The application for the local license shall be made at least thirty (30) days prior to the date or day for which the license is issued;
(6) Within thirty (30) calendar days of the completion of the permitted game of chance, the charitable organization shall file a financial report upon forms furnished by the department, with the department.
§ 11-51-1 Definitions. –
(a) “Gambling” includes, but is not limited to, pool-selling, bookmaking, maintaining slot-machines, roulette wheels or dice tables, and conducting lotteries, Policy, Bolita, or numbers games or selling chances in them.
(b) “Organized criminal gambling business” as used in this chapter means a gambling business which involves three (3) or more persons who conduct, finance, manage, supervise, direct, operate, or own all or part of the business and which has been or remains in substantially continuous operation for a period in excess of fifteen (15) days, or which has conducted operations on at least two (2) days in each of two (2) consecutive weeks, or which has a combined gross revenue of at least one thousand dollars ($1,000) in any single day, or which has entered into a total of at least one hundred (100) gambling transactions in any single day.
(2) “Organized criminal gambling business” does not refer to betting specifically authorized by chapter 4 of title 41 or any act in amendment of that chapter, nor to any form of gambling otherwise licensed or permitted by specific statutory enactment.
§ 11-51-2 Organized criminal gambling business. –
Whoever shall conduct, finance, manage, supervise, direct or own all or part of an organized criminal gambling business, as defined in this chapter, shall be imprisoned for not more than five (5) years and fined not more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000).
Rhode Island State Lottery is authorized and regulated in Chapter 42-61.