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Judge allows suit that seeks to stop sports gambling in R.I. to go forward

5th December, 23:07

The constitutional challenge to legal sports betting in Rhode Island is rolling ahead after a Superior Court judge Thursday ruled that former Republican Providence mayoral candidate Daniel Harrop has standing to sue the state over it because he lost a bet on the New England Patriots last year.

Harrop wants a judge to halt state-sponsored sports betting in Rhode Island until it is approved by voters, arguing that the state constitution requires a referendum for any expansion of the types of gambling allowed.

Gov. Gina Raimondo's administration counters that voters approved sports betting when they approved table games several years ago and has tried to get the case thrown out on the grounds that Harrop isn't harmed by sports betting and lacks standing to bring the suit.

Judge Brian Stern in September granted the state's motion to dismiss the case, but Harrop then produced evidence of a previously undisclosed bet on a Patriots game and amended his complaint to cite the loss as grounds for standing.

In a 17-page ruling Thursday, Stern decided that bet was sufficient to allow the case to go on.

"As noted by Chief Justice Warren, '[s]tanding has been called one of the [most] amorphous concepts in the entire domain of public law,'" Stern wrote. "This Court has parsed through Rhode Island and federal jurisprudence to interpret the standing doctrine and finds that the Plaintiff has standing, and his claim is justiciable."

The decision means the underlying constitutional dispute over whether Raimondo and lawmakers wrongly denied voters a say on sports betting might now be decided on the merits.

"Obviously we are pleased with the court's decision and we are looking forward to finally having the opportunity to explain to the court that the General Assembly and Gov. Raimondo violated the constitution," said Brandon Bell, one of Harrop's attorneys in the case and former state GOP chairman.

The state has budgeted $22.7 million in revenue from sports betting this year.

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