RI lawmaker wants to decriminalize social gaming

A Rhode Island lawmaker has introduced a bill in hopes of decriminalizing social gaming.

A Rhode Island lawmaker has introduced a bill to decriminalize social gaming.

That's casual sports betting pools -- think March Madness brackets -- without the big prizes.

While it is illegal, Rep. William O'Brien, a North Providence Democrat, said he wants to change that.

"I remember they were doing Super Bowl pools when I was just a little boy," he told NBC 10 News Thursday. "It makes absolutely no sense, no sense whatsoever to keep these laws on the books for local, basically, bets between friends. No one's profiting by them."

The legislation would make wagers in homes, bars and private clubs legal. No entry fees or proceeds from the pool can be paid to the house, host or owner.

Bar patrons who spoke to NBC 10 seemed to be OK with the bill.

"I'll do March Madness if somebody's running a pool," Amanda McGuire of South Kingstown said. "It's small stakes money."

Others shared similar sentiments.

"It's a lot of fun," Amy Laboissonniere said. "People get really into it. It's a great way to celebrate as long as no one's getting hurt doing anything wrong. It's a great idea."

Lawmakers have introduced similar bills that didn't move forward. But O'Brien said he is confident his will.

"What are we going to do? Go into beauty parlors and arrest everyone? The law's outdated and they have to be corrected," O'Brien said, adding that he expects the bill to pass in committee and become law by the end of the year.

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