Gamblers placed nearly $23.6 million in wagers in March, when the NCAA Tournament is held — the highest monthly total since sports betting launched in November, according to recently released data from the state lottery. Casinos paid $22 million on winning bets.
The $1.5 million profit is the highest monthly total, bringing total profits to about $1.8 million. The state gets 51% after expenses are subtracted.
Tax revenue, however, has fallen far short of projections. Rhode Island, the only New England state with legal sports betting, expected to generate $11.5 million this fiscal year, but the state’s sportsbooks took a $2.35 million hit when the New England Patriots won the Super Bowl again and covered the spread too.
Lottery Director Gerald Aubin said he thinks the market will continue growing and it’s fortunate that neighboring Massachusetts and Connecticut haven’t launched sports betting.
“We will make money on sports betting,” Aubin said after a Monday meeting of the legislative committee overseeing the state lottery. “We are in the gambling business. It’s volatile and we will have those situations where people win a lot. It could’ve gone the opposite way with the Super Bowl.”
Aubin said he’s pleased with how betting on baseball is going because daily wagering has been fairly consistent.
Rhode Island is hoping the addition of online betting will improve its tax haul. The goal is to launch online betting by the end of the summer, in time for the start of preseason football, Aubin said. Currently, bets must be placed in person at the Twin River casinos in Lincoln and Tiverton.
This year’s NCAA Tournament was the first March Madness since New Jersey won a U.S. Supreme Court case in May, clearing the way for states to legalize sports betting.
Bets from college basketball fans in March helped New Jersey to its second-highest monthly sports betting total, with more than $372 million in wagers made there last month.
New Jersey and Delaware are the only states with newly legalized sports betting that are meeting their tax revenue projections.