Rhode Island Lottery Goes Online, as Coronavirus Plagues Land-Based Sales

Posted on: May 13, 2020, 09:49h. 

Last updated on: May 13, 2020, 04:13h.

The Rhode Island Lottery has launched online games that players inside the state can access during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rhode Island Lottery online games
The Rhode Island Lottery is taking its business online amid the coronavirus hurting brick-and-mortar sales. (Image: ABC6)

The lottery announced the new online offerings today on social media. “There’s a new way to play! You can now buy and play Keno and eInstants from your computer or phone from anywhere in RI!” a tweet promoted.

“eInstants” are instant scratch-off tickets played on the internet. The lottery website currently has 12 instant games online. Players can win up to $200,000 on a mobile scratch-off, and up to $100,000 on online Keno.

This will be a great convenience for players and will generate additional revenue for our state,” said Rhode Island Lottery Director Gerald Aubin.

Prizes of less than $600 are automatically deposited into a player’s online account. Prizes over $600 must be redeemed in person at the lottery’s headquarters in Cranston.

Revenues Hurting

The Rhode Island Lottery directs its profits to the state’s General Fund. Since 1974, it’s contributed more than $7.4 billion to the account that supports various aspects of life in the Ocean State, including education, health care, and public safety.

Sales have been declining since March 17, when Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) ordered nonessential businesses to close. Restaurants, bars, and taverns that are also Rhode Island Lottery retailers were included in the shutdown mandate.

Monthly gross lottery sales in March totaled $18.6 million – the third consecutive monthly declines. Sales totaled $23.46 million in December, $22.08 million in January, and $20.38 million in February.

The Rhode Island Lottery also regulates the state’s two casinos – Twin River and Tiverton. Gross gaming revenue on slot machines is taxed at a rate ranging from 68.65 percent to 74 percent, dependent on total win, while table games are taxed at 17-19 percent.

The two casinos have been closed since the middle of March, further hurting the lottery’s revenues.

Our revenues have absolutely fallen off a cliff,” Raimondo said last month. “It isn’t just the casino, although that is our third-biggest source of revenue, it’s as you say, pushing back taxes, many people are out of work, generally the economy is softer. That’s much softer.”

The lottery transferred $397.3 million to the state’s General Fund in the 2019 fiscal year. That was an 8.9 percent increase – or $32.3 million – on the 2018 FY. Lottery revenues in the 2020 fiscal year are projected to be down $130.3 million.

Online Lotteries

Lotteries have continued to operate across the country during the numerous stay-at-home directives. Governors say because they benefit essential programs, lotteries are essential businesses, and therefore can remain in operation.

Rhode Island joins eight other states in permitting lottery games on the internet: Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

The country’s two most popular games – Powerball and Mega Millions – are also reporting reduced play as a result of the coronavirus. Both interstate games did away with guaranteed minimum starting jackpots and increases.