The New England Patriots are heading back to the Super Bowl, and local fans are likely bullish on the team’s chances of winning a sixth championship.
Soon, those fans might have a chance to put their money on the line without traveling to a place like Las Vegas. Gov. Gina Raimondo, for one, is betting on it.
The U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering New Jersey’s challenge to federal law that limits most states from allowing sports betting. Many observers expect the court to rule in New Jersey’s favor, opening the doors for sports betting in states across the country.
Raimondo, in her $9.4 billion budget plan for the coming fiscal year, includes $26.5 million in revenue anticipated from the expansion of gambling to sports bets. That is based on a projection of $815 million in wagers.
The proposal makes a great deal of sense. Neighboring or nearby states would almost certainly plunge into the new sports-betting market if the court allows. As Rhode Island’s expenses continue to outpace its revenues, leaving on the table a new source of funds to help provide for the state’s many needs would be imprudent, even irresponsible.
We also recognize that the figure tied to sports betting is small, relative to the scope of the overall budget plan. We trust the $26.5 million estimate is based on sound projections, but even if it fails to materialize fully, filling the gap will not be insurmountable.
Yet we cannot help feel uneasy, perhaps because the state already faces significant budget gaps for the current year and those to come. At the moment, there seems little in the way of a concrete plan to address those shortfalls.
Meanwhile, there are significant new needs and initiatives underway – not least of which include the phase-out of the car tax and plans to inject a combined $1 billion over five years into the state’s school facilities.
Adopting sports betting, if the court allows, is the right move for Rhode Island. It is, however, but a piece – and a small one at that – of a confounding puzzle that is nowhere near being solved. Our leaders, and we as citizens, must strive to keep this unpleasant reality in mind, as we must endeavor to find a more responsible and sustainable path forward.