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For bettors eagerly awaiting the arrival of sports betting in Connecticut, the possibility got a bit clearer this week as Gov. Ned Lamont voiced his support for a bill that would bring wagering to operators across the state.
The Lamont-approved bill is causing a stir among tribal casino leaders who were pushing for a measure that would grant them a monopoly over sports betting in the state, as the legislation allows for sports betting to be run through the state’s Lottery as well as the Indian gaming establishments.
For Lamont, the bill would create a larger market for tax revenue and allow for fairer competition among betting operators. According to Lamont spokesperson, Max Reiss, the measure that focuses just on sports betting is an easier approach to getting wagering to customers quickly.
“It also builds upon the state’s existing partnership with the tribes, is more likely to withstand legal challenges from third party competitors, and promotes a fair and competitive sports betting market outside the tribes’ reservations,” Reiss said in a statement this week.
Tribal casinos want legislation that gives them a monopoly over sports betting in Connecticut. There are currently two casinos in the state, the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino, that would directly be responsible for sports betting under the casinos’ proposal.
But Lamont’s preference for an open market flies in the face of the current legal agreement between the state and the casinos, according to tribal leaders. In a public hearing this week, held by the Public Safety and Security Committee, tribal leaders voiced their concern for the new bill and suggested they would be forced to take legal action if the measure passed and is signed by Gov. Lamont.
“Unfortunately, Governor Lamont appears to be saying that the state can either adopt his singular proposal on gaming, or do nothing at all,” wrote the chairman of the Mohegan Tribe, James Gessner, in a released statement after Lamont’s decision. “That simply isn’t true. The Governor’s proposal would put both the tribal nations and the State of Connecticut in an untenable position, resulting in certain litigation.”
If the agreement between the tribes and the state dissolves, then Connecticut risks losing tax revenue from the two casinos. Currently, the tribal casinos pay the state roughly $250 million per year for exclusivity to offer gambling to customers in Connecticut.
Even with generous estimates, it would be very difficult for sports betting to make up for the loss of that revenue for the state.
If the agreement is breached in the tribes’ eyes and they sue the state, then federal courts will hear the arguments and ultimately make a decision, a process that will undoubtedly take years and cost potentially millions of dollars.
With both parties reaching a stalemate, legislators are calling for compromise and conversations on how both parties can come away happy with the legalization of sports betting.
If the two sides can come to a new agreement in the next couple of months, Connecticut could see sports betting available by the beginning of the upcoming NFL season.
The Native Casinos have been pushing for legislation to protect their status and the new bill may disrupt that attempt.
The bill would create a larger market for tax revenue and allow for fairer competition among betting operators
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