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Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont surprisingly opened the door to bringing legalized sports betting to the state when he discussed the issue with representatives of the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes, a group that operates two large casinos in the southeast.
The issue of sports betting was once the heart of topical conversation among legislators in Connecticut but after failing to agree on a bill, lawmakers fell by the wayside. But with Gov. Lamont’s discussion with two powerful tribal groups in the state, wagering is now a strong possibility to happen in 2020.
“I had a good meeting with the (tribal) leaders, and I think we’re moving towards places where we can reach agreement,” Lamont told the assembled media on Wednesday at the state Capitol.
“Look, the rest of the country and all our neighboring states are working hard on sports betting, iLottery and some of the other things that we need to do to make us competitive in this growing economy. I want to do that in association with the tribes. We’re doing that in collaboration and doing it in a way that mitigates the risk of a lawsuit.”
Gov. Lamont’s office is signaling that he would like an agreement among lawmakers ratified by the state’s General Assembly that begins in February.
“I’d like a global agreement,” Lamont told reporters. “I’d like to solve everything for world peace. But in the meantime, I’m going to take what I can get.”
Sports betting could be a part of a much larger bill that expands gaming in several big areas in Connecticut. Not only is the Governor looking to insert the possibility of wagering into the legislative discourse, but expanding the number of casinos in the state as well.
“Let’s keep it simple,” Lamont said. “Right now, the iLottery is important for us. It’s one of the things we had in mind when it came to how we can subsidize community college and move toward debt-free community college. Sports betting, I think, is something where I think we can reach broad agreement going forward.”
For the tribes that run the current casinos in the state, the thought of expanding sports betting outside their purview is a stumbling block that could delay wagering in Connecticut for months, if not years. Instead, the tribes suggest legalizing sports betting for their casinos now, while working out the larger problems down the line.
“The easy solution, in the interim, if we can’t figure out all the bigger gaming issues, would just be to have sports betting at Mohegan and Foxwoods, and then we can save the more difficult conversations for down the line,” Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot tribe said.
“We’re looking at a global solution — looking at sports betting, online gaming, extended liquor hours, casinos in Bridgeport, casinos in Hartford, and we’re trying to wrap it all into one conversation. It’s complicated.”
Even after the meeting with the tribes, Gov. Lamont admitted that the leadership of tribal casinos are entrenched in their stance that sports betting should run through them. When asked about the casinos possibly relaxing from their position and offering “wiggle room,” the Governor demurred.
“I wouldn’t say wiggle room,” Lamont said. “What I would say is that everybody wants to reach a conclusion. This is another one of these issues that has lingered in this state for many, many years, and I’m trying to solve some problems.”
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