Interesting facts about Rhode Island: It’s named for the Greek island of ancient lore, and it’s not an island. Okay, you probably knew both of those bits of trivia, but did you know that not only was the state a pioneer in the now taken-for-granted relative ubiquity of Native American-run casinos in the U.S. but that the state may claim one NFL championship – but the league’s sweetest-named team ever, no less.
Betting in Rhode Island
NFLbets could go back to the time of the colonial settlers and puritan-influenced law against vice and alla that, but instead let’s cut to the chase, perhaps the most significant moment in U.S. gambling history since Bugsy Siegel decided that maybe that otherwise useless desert land could use a little development.
In 1975, the Naragansetts brought a lawsuit against the Rhode Island state government, claiming that some 3,200 acres of land in Charlestown and its environs was illegally taken from the Native Americans (imagine that) in the later 1800s in violation of the Trade And Intercourse Act of 1790. After three years of wrangling, a settlement was reached in ’78; this resulted in the state’s Narragansett Indian Land Management Corporation Act in 1979. More importantly for the purposes of the game-changing federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) in ‘88, the legal settlement produced the federal Rhode Island Indian Claims Settlement Act of 1978.
In 1992, the Narragansetts teamed with British-American Bingo Inc. in announcing their intent to build a full-on Las Vegas-style casino on the newly-won Native American land. Thanks to the federal decision, the group further stated that there were exempt from regulations, including environment-related rules. More legal battles ensued despite the opening of the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut, which might have mounted pressure on those who would benefit most from casino tax revenues, i.e. government interests.
The Narragansetts’ patience finally paid off in 2007, when all legal battles were finally settled and the Twin Rivers Casino opened as a bingo hall with some electronic gaming. By 2009, more gaming was legally approved and table games were legalized in ’12.
Football in Rhode Island
For much of the past 75 years or so, Providence and other New England cities such as Hartford have existed culturally in the shadow of monstrous Boston, and thus most football fandom in Rhode Island has been focused on the Boston/New England Patriots since the team’s incorporation in the AFL in 1960.
However, in the 1920s, Providence was still populous enough in its own right to support the highest level of professional football team: According to the 1920, the city ranked 27th, just below Denver and Toledo but above Columbus, Louisville, St. Paul and Oakland. Providence was also nearby enough football hotbeds like Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio so that train travel was doable.
In 1916, the Providence Steam Roller (easily the greatest professional football team ever and, trust us, NFLbets spends much time ranting about the insipidity and stupidity of collective nouns as mascots) were created by city newspapermen. By 1924, the Steam Roller was a dominant force in New England’s independent pro/semipro football scene and that year performed none-too-shabbily against NFL teams, going 3-2-1 against these sides and 3-0-1 against teams not named the Frankford Yellow Jackets.
The team joined the NFL in 1925 and in ’28 took New England’s first-ever NFL championship, named the champions by league officials due essentially to a 6-0 November win in Providence over the rival Yellow Jackets. Sadly, three key players retired from football after the ’28 season and over the next three years, the Steam Roller ran up a cumulative record of 14-14-6. Mediocre play plus the Great Depression finished the Steam Roller off after the ’31 season, and so the team now holds the ignoble distinction as, as put inelegantly at Wikipedia, “the last [NFL] team to win a championship and no longer be in the league.”
In college football, two teams of note play: The Brown bears and the Rhode Island Rams. Sadly, Brown has just four Ivy League titles to their credit – and just one solo title, in 2005 – putting them with the division’s bottom-feeding Cornell Big Red (with three titles) and Columbia Lions (one). While few Brown grads set the football world on fire after graduation, at least one is familiar to all football fans: John W. Heisman, who played on the first Brown Bears teams of 1887 to ’89.
The URI Rams have had a pretty sorry history since before the 21st century. In the modern era, the Rams have made the Division I-AA/FCS playoffs just three times – in 1981, ’84 and ’85. From 1986 through the 2017 season, URI football has posted a winning record just twice. The Rams can’t even take solace in the annual Governor’s Cup game played between URI and Brown: The Brown Bears are 6-2 in the game from 2010 to ’17.
Betting on football in Rhode Island
Since the Narragansetts’ legal battles, Rhode Island has gotten progressively more liberal regarding gambling: The state currently allows a state lottery, pari-mutuel wagering at the state’s horse track, and legal daily fantasy football betting. We’d suspect that the legalization of betting on football in Rhode Island will depend on how Connecticut and Massachusetts, whose own casinos consistently and competitively appeal to Rhode Islanders. It seems likely the tiny sate will switch over to decriminalized football betting sooner rather than later.