Spike Visits the Twin River Casino in Rhode Island

Super Bowl Sunday is a highly anticipated day each year in the United States.  For hardcore football fans or just the casually interested observer, the event that is the Super Bowl has become a symbol of Americana and a worldwide sporting and entertainment spectacle as well (111 million plus viewers across the globe).

For folks in the Northeast US however, the 2019 Super Bowl was a day of special significance.  No, not because the New England Patriots won the game (well, maybe a little!) but because on February 3, 2019 the state of Rhode Island became the eighth state to legalize sports wagering and gave the rights to offer sports wagering initially to the Twin River Casino properties in Lincoln, RI and Tiverton, RI.  When the Supreme Court struck down a 1992 federal law that banned sports betting in 46 states in May of 2018, it opened the way for states who want a piece of the sports wagering action to participate legally. Rhode Island casino sportsbooks will handle $4.5 million in wagers per month in a partnership with William Hill, and both Twin River sportsbooks are now running at full capacity.

Needless to say, this intrigued a guy like me.  I was very excited to place a few wagers in a situation that Is not online or with some bookie.  I enjoy wagering at a sportsbook like I do frequently in Las Vegas.  Living in the Northeast as I currently do had made it impossible to place a sports wager any other way.

Until now.

I went to the Twin River property in Lincoln for an evening of food, drink, fun, and sports wagering.  One thing that I liked immediately is that no smoking was allowed in the sportsbook or in any part of the second floor of the facility.  If you smoke, you simply had to leave the book and go down one flight of stairs – not a prohibitive measure.  The sportsbook had a full bar and full lunch /dinner food menu(reasonably priced and quite tasty!), and plenty of screens to watch the games.  Comfortable, spacious, and for the most part well thought out.

Having said that, let’s just say that I have seen a book or two and have a few critiques of the facility.  But first, I had some conversations with some of the sportsbook personnel at Twin River and I will share these with you, then on to giving some suggestions for improvement and what to look for if you come here to wager.

The first people I spoke to were the servers and the bartender.  They were ecstatic about how things were going.  One server said she knew it would be a good job but she is making more money than anticipated and is excited for March.  The main bartender said it is usually pretty crowded but not so much that you can’t get around, and that there is usually positive energy in the place that helps to make it a good working environment.

I added the above paragraph because to me it reinforces what I have always believed about casinos and the now legal sports wagering side of gaming. It isn’t just a question of how you feel morally or societally about wagering, folks.  Clearly the legislation in RI has stimulated the state economy with hundreds of newly created good jobs that pay well and help people achieve the American Dream.  Management.  Architectural.  Construction.  Marketing and Sales. Food and Beverage. You get the idea.

I had a long conversation with Ross, the sportsbook manager on duty.  He was very forthright and answered all questions – I appreciated his candor and for brevity I will summarize.  Yes, he believes more space should have been given for the wagering odds tote board (more on that later). You can’t get free drink tickets for a wager over a certain amount yet, and when they start that (in 3-4 months) you have to be rated with a players card to get one. Also in 3-4 months, you will be able to use their app to bet on your phone, and there will be a bank of kiosks to bet from to give bettors another option while at the book.  I also said I had trouble buying the hook(paying an increased amount on your wager to eliminate the half point – say to get -9 on a team instead of -9.5) on a number of games and he blamed the company they partner with to bring us wagering (William Hill) on that.

No matter where you are as a sports bettor – expert, novice, or somewhere in between – the following items will help you navigate the sportsbook at Twin River in Little Rhody more effectively:

  • Not enough space was devoted to the tote boards. They are small and flash through the long lists of games offered for college basketball and other sports.  They have tote boards upstairs but only show odds on the less followed obscure offerings like soccer.  A clear mistake that I told Ross about.  My suggestion would be to use the physical paper sports sheets so you have the rotation number ready to go, then you can see if the odds have changed when your game flashes.
  • Check the vig (the amount of money you must pay to make a wager – standard is -110 – $11 bet to win $10) on the game you like. They snuck in a few -115 and -117 on regular college basketball games – even a -122.  My friend and gaming expert Eric McCafferty predicted this would happen and it has.
  • Expect slow progress to the ticket writer to make your bet – and expect slow progress when you get there. I noticed that many people around me, meaning bettors and ticket writing personnel alike, are new to this.  Be prepared to describe your wager fully…each one.  By way of example, at the El Cortez in downtown Las Vegas I can just say my dollar amount and then give a list of rotation numbers (a number assigned to a team than you can bet on) and I am good.   Don’t get frustrated if you have to say each time “straight wager” “moneyline wager” “total wager” etc.  And don’t get frustrated if somebody in front of you with two minutes to tip off asks the writer what kind of bets those are…it WILL happen here.
  • After you bet, step over to the bar and order a Manhattan straight up. They make a mean one!!!

I enjoyed my time at the Twin River Sportsbook in Lincoln, RI.  Hats off to the Rhode Island legislature for making this happen, and I would certainly recommend the spot to the sports wagering enthusiast.  As I said to a good friend of mine on the phone while there – “Man does it feel good to bet in a book!”


Spike Thomas

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