Rhode Island Bettors Go All-In On Patriots, Crush Sportsbooks

Patriots Fans
(USA Today Sports Images)

New figures show that bettors in Rhode Island served up a $2.3 million lesson to the state’s two legal sportsbooks, thanks to very heavy action on the hometown team, or the near-hometown team. Yes, the New England Patriots cost the sportsbooks big by claiming their sixth Super Bowl title on Sunday. The seven-figure loss highlights a situation that sportsbooks in states to recently legalize sports betting will also wrestle with, because fans may very well blindly back the home team.

As expected, sportsbooks in a state just a stone’s throw away from Foxboro Stadium got flooded with Patriots money. A spokesperson for the R.I. Department of Revenue said Tuesday the state’s two casinos lost an estimated $2.3 million on Super Bowl LIII.

Patriots bettors flock to Rhode Island

There are two casinos currently taking bets in Rhode Island: Twin River Casino and Tiverton Casino Hotel. William Hill runs the sportsbooks at both casinos. Even though William Hill was the only major sportsbook posting a -3 line on the Patriots the week leading up to the Super Bowl, apparently it didn’t deter New England bettors from wagering on the local team.

According to the revenue department, 50,000 bettors wagered $6.5 million on the Super Bowl in Rhode Island. Nearly 77 percent of bettors took New England on the point spread, causing the sportsbooks to take a big hit when the Patriots defeated the Rams 13-3.

“The Super Bowl proved to be great advertising for this new gaming amenity and a powerful test of the sports book being run by IGT-William Hill on behalf of the R.I. Lottery,” said Paul Grimaldi, chief of information and public relations for the R.I. Department of Revenue. “We expect that many first-time visitors are happy with the service and the results.”

Rhode Island took a big lump, however, New Jersey sportsbooks collectively took a hit with the East Coast team covering the spread. New Jersey sportsbooks took a $4.6 million loss on $34.9 million wagered on Super Bowl LIII. It begs the question, do sportsbook need to shade lines toward the hometown team? The blown call in the Saints-Rams NFC Championship game actually saved Mississippi sportsbooks from heavy exposure on Saints futures bets.

Mobile wagering coming soon to Rhode Island?

In reality, things could have been even worse for Rhode Island sportsbooks if the state offered mobile wagering during the Super Bowl. Currently, bets can only be made at Rhode Island’s two brick and mortar sportsbooks but that could change soon. On Wednesday, the state will have a hearing on a bill to legalize mobile wagering.

With sports betting revenue falling short of projections, General Assembly leaders are fast-tracking legislation to legalize mobile wagering in the state. Rhode Island made around $500,000 from sports betting from Nov. 26 2018 to the end of last year.

If that pace continues, the state will fall well short of the projected $11.5 million in revenue from sports betting. By legalizing mobile wagering, Rhode Island is hoping sports betting will pick up over the final six months of the fiscal year and they can still get close to the estimated $11.5 million in revenue.

The Patriots have appeared in nine Super Bowls in 18 years. While having the local team in the big game helps to generate action, it’s also rough on the sportsbooks if that team covers the spread. Meanwhile, in Nevada, it was another profitable Super Bowl Sunday.