Rhode Island’s gaming revenue rebounding since COVID-19 lockdowns, data reveals

(The Center Square) – Rhode Island’s gaming revenue in several categories was cut in half at the height of pandemic-induced lockdowns, according to financial data from state officials. In most instances, it is, however, on the rebound.

A comb-through of financial data posted to the Rhode Island Department of Revenue Lottery Division’s website provides a snapshot of revenues brought in from traditional lottery games, video lottery terminals, table games and sports betting or, as it is more formally known, sport book.

According to the Lottery Division’s fiscal year 2021 annual report, the most recent available, the agency transferred $301.8 million into Rhode Island’s general fund, which represented an increase from the $283.9 million transferred in fiscal year 2020.

Pre-pandemic, the division was able to transfer $397.3 million to the state’s general fund in 2019.

With the exception of the sports book category – which was the benefactor of new legislation – each category within Rhode Island’s lottery program slumped from a revenue standpoint during the two highest years of COVID-19 as building closures and physical distancing were still commonplace.

Table games, reliant on physical interaction, were the hardest hit of the Rhode Island Lottery’s four categories when pandemic safeguards were at their highest level; they remain in decline.

This is based on a four-year analysis, beginning with fiscal year 2019 through the current fiscal year, which closed in June. Fiscal year 2022 data is unaudited, meaning the figures are still pending.

In fiscal year 2019, the state brought in $163.44 million from table games, and revenue dipped to $83.25 million the following year, which included the first three-and-a-half months of COVID-19’s onset. Revenue continued a downward trajectory to $66.34 million in fiscal year 2021 before a projected rebound of $125.04 million in fiscal year 2022.

Video lottery terminals also were impacted during the heaviest COVID-19 lockdown years.

The state brought in $522.75 million from terminals in fiscal year 2019, but revenues slumped in fiscal year 2020 to $352.83 million. Revenue continued to slump in fiscal year 2021, with $345.06 million on the books before rebounding to an anticipated $481.15 million in fiscal year 2022.

The Rhode Island General Assembly in 2020 adopted companion bills that opened up sports book revenue to mobile platforms by removing an in-person requirement.

The shift has brought steady income growth for sports wagering in each successive year. In fiscal year 2019, it clocked in at $6.86 million and jumped to $18.7 million in fiscal year 2020. The legislation, which was passed into law for fiscal year 2021, resulted in $36.18 million. This past fiscal year, it stands at an unaudited $39.74 million.

Traditional lottery games have been the most stable from a revenue standpoint in the four-year analysis.

In fiscal year 2019, traditionally lottery revenue totaled $263.27 million and dipped to $246.39 million in fiscal year 2020. Figures rebounded in fiscal year 2021 to $295.94 million and are projected to have again increased in fiscal year 2022, with $305.08 million on the books.

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