Poker Coverage: Poker Legislation Poker Tournaments U.S. Poker Markets Sports Betting

Physician And Former GOP Mayoral Candidate Sues Rhode Island For 'Unconstitutional' Sports Betting Laws

Dr. Daniel Harrop Filed Suit Against The State, Arguing Sports Betting Needed To Be Passed Via Ballot Referendum


A physician and former Providence GOP Mayoral candidate filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the state of Rhode Island and its sports betting laws.

According to the Providence Journal, lawyers representing Dr. Daniel Harrop filed suit in the Rhode Island Superior Court against the state’s Division of Lotteries and Department of Administration.

This lawsuit was designed by Brandon Bell, the former chair of the state’s Republican Party. In March, Bell released a statement stating that the party was “actively looking at a lawsuit” to challenge sports betting.

The argument behind the suit is that the state Constitution requires a ballot referendum to legalize any new gambling. Sports betting was never on the ballot in the state, but both brick-and-mortar and online sports betting were legalized by Rhode Island this year in bills that were passed only a few months apart.

“This isn’t an anti-sports betting suit. It isn’t an anti-online sports betting suit. We are just saying let the people vote,” said Joe Larisa Jr., a gambling law specialist and one of the lawyers involved who filed the suit. “If one provision of our Constitution is, ‘eh, we’ll disregard it this time,’ then all provisions of our Constitution are in jeopardy.”

State officials are arguing that when Rhode Island expanded its gaming laws in 2012 and 2016, those ballot questions applied to sports betting as well. Those ballot questions referenced “Class 3 gaming,” which is a broad term that state interpreted to include sports betting.

A spokesman for Gov. Gina Raimondo, who signed the two sports betting bills into law told the Providence Journal that the government would not stop the development of mobile sports betting app while the lawsuit is still pending.

Rhode Island passed a brick-and-mortar sports betting bill last November. The state expected to reap $11.5 million in tax revenue from the 51 percent tax on sports betting revenue. Through the first four months, they only generated $300,000.

The lack of revenue led the state legislature to quickly pass a mobile sports betting bill that will allow gamblers to wager from their phones anywhere in the state.