Rhode Island Legalized Gambling and Poker Laws

Rhode Island Legal Internet Poker / Gambling
Gambling / Poker Laws in Rhode Island

Known by the nicknames The Ocean State and Little Rhody (I vastly prefer the latter), Rhode Island probably isn't thought of by many as The Poker State. But thanks to the innovation of online poker and the recent expansion of regulated gambling in Rhode Island, poker is gaining a strong foothold with players in the state. That foothold, and where it might lead, is the topic of this Rhode Island Guide to Online Poker, which will also touch on the legal and political issues surrounding online poker and gambling in general.

Guide to Online Poker in Rhode Island

List: The Top Rhode Island Online Poker Sites

While any number of online poker sites take customers from Rhode Island, not all of them offer the same quality of experience. To save you from finding out the hard way which sites are worth your time and which are better left unplayed, we polled our writers, staff and some readers to generate this (regularly updated) list of the top online poker rooms for Rhode Island:

Playing Poker Online From Rhode Island

There are basically two steps to getting online to play poker for money from Rhode Island. The first is to create an account, which is a blissfully simple affair requiring little more than an email and a minute or two of your time. The second is to deposit money into that account, which is a slightly more complicated, but still relatively quick, process. You'll have a number of choices for funding your online poker account, but the two with the highest ratings among Rhode Island poker players are Visa and MoneyGram.

Rhode Island Gambling Law and Online Poker

Understanding how Rhode Island law treats online poker requires you to first understand how the law handles gambling in general. That's the aim of this section of our guide, where we'll first outline the core things you need to know about Rhode Island gambling law and then link you to the full text of the law for additional research.

Below find the basics of Rhode Island gambling law:

  • Gambling law in Rhode Island is complicated by a number of factors. The first and foremost: there is no direct definition of gambling (or similar term).
  • We can glean some sense of what lawmakers intended from "Forms of gambling prohibited," which disallows: "any lottery, chance, game, or device of any nature or kind whatsoever, or by whatsoever name it may be called" (Section 11-19-1). The section does not address participation in such activities; rather, it prescribes a felony charge for those who "directly or indirectly, set up, put forth, carry on, promote, or draw" prohibited forms of gambling.
  • There is a surprising severity to be found in some parts of Rhode Island law. For example, the crime of "Inducing others to visit a gambling place" - defined as to "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" (Section 11-19-20) - carries a jail term of one year.
  • Similarly, the seemingly harmless crime of "frequenting gambling place," which entails no more than to "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 premise" (Section 11-19-21) - brings up to a whopping 30 days in jail.

For a fuller sense of how the law in Rhode Island could apply to online poker, visit this link [1] to access a searchable version of Rhode Island state law.

Will Rhode Island Regulate Online Poker?

While gambling expansion is always something of an uphill fight, there do seem to be some positive signs for those who would like to see state-regulated online poker come to Rhode Island.

We've heard regular chatter of an interstate partnership involving Delaware and Rhode Island, for one thing.  For another, the state - at least some parts of it - seem more than willing to embrace more regulated gambling (additional details on that below). Put it all together and Rhode Island starts to look like a state that could launch regulated online poker well ahead of the average state in the U.S..

Rhode Island Gambling Facts

Regulated Gambling in Rhode Island

Regulated gambling options in Rhode Island run the gamut, from commercial casinos to pari-mutuel betting to charitable gambling (raffles & bingo) to the state lottery. The one major type of regulated gambling that you won't find in Rhode Island: tribal gambling facilities.

Rhode Island does not leave any room in their law for so-called "social gambling," but it's difficult to gauge the enforcement interest of the government when it comes to private games such as a home poker tournament.

Regulated Online Gambling in Rhode Island

There aren't any forms of state-regulated online gambling in Rhode Island, but that situation could change over the next year. Read more about the state's chances of regulating online poker in the section above.

Rhode Island: Recent Gambling Headlines

The public approval of table games [2] at the Twin River casino in November 2012 generated a ton of local and national interest, and - at least to some [3] - represented the latest salvo in a dangerous regulated gambling race between Rhode Island and Massachusetts

Not all recent attempts at expanding gambling in Rhode Island have met with success; in fact, as voters in one part of the state approved more gambling, voters in another shot it down [4].  We expect that trend of push-and-pull to continue in Rhode Island for the next several years, with opponents and supporters of regulated gambling expansion continuing to do battle on the hyper-local and state levels.

Additional Resources for Rhode Island Gambling Research

BallotPedia: Rhode Island Question 1 (2012) [5].  Get the full story on the 2012 ballot measure that allowed gambling expansion at Twin River in this comprehensive overview from BallotPedia.org.

Rhode Island State Police - Charitable Gambling Unit [6].  Enforcement of the charitable gambling laws in Rhode Island falls to this unit of the State Police. History, FAQs and the basics of legal charitable gambling.

Twin River Casino [7].  Rhode Island's largest regulated gambling operation (by most measures). Complete details on available games, related news and so on.

Sources & Citations For This Article on Rhode Island Online Poker