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It appears apparent that “keeping up with the Joneses” is becoming important to Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont. That is, keeping pace with recent talk from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo of pursuing legalized online wagering. And an opportunity to obtain much-needed tax funding.
Following Gov Cuomo’s State of the State address, Gov. Lamont used a portion of his State of the State address last week to voice support for the legalization of sports gambling in Connecticut. It might have been equally surprising as Cuomo’s words, as for many years any talk of legalizing sports wagering has fueled controversy and sometimes legal threats among opposition political forces within Connecticut.
Within his address, Gov. Lamont stated he “looks forward to working with our tribal partners” as the journey toward a legal sports betting industry gathers momentum. He then added that sports betting is picking up pace in neighboring states and that “sports betting and internet gaming is happening all around us”.
Those words were more than a veiled reference to the comparison situation involving New Jersey and New York. New Jersey led the US with a record $931.6 million handles for sports wagering in November and a revenue take of $50.6 million. Of that, an important $6.2 million was contributed toward state taxes.
New York Gov. Cuomo has taken quick notice of New Jersey’s sports wagering success, all dominated by figures that encompass online betting achieving 85-90% of the action. Numbers that have been driven by the impacts of COVID-19 and the iGaming convenience that Gov. Lamont knows Connecticut players will demand.
In the early 1990′s, Connecticut’s Mohegan Tribe opened the extremely successful Mohegan Sun along with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe opening the nationally known Foxwoods Resort Casino. Together they became two of the world’s largest gaming complexes and major catalysts for both tribal and commercial gaming expansion in the region and across the US.
When putting together the deal with the tribes, Connecticut, the Mohegans, and Mashantucket Pequots agreed to provide 25% of all slot revenues to the state government in exchange for exclusive rights for the tribes to offer casino games in the state. Certainly, a win-win partnership, as by 2007 both casinos accrued more than $1.5 billion in slot revenue, generating approximately $430 in state taxes.
Once PASPA (the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992) was reversed by the US Supreme Court in May 2018, then CT Gov. Daniel Malloy and current Gov. Ned Lamont has attempted to amend the existing compact deal to include new gaming options including sports wagering.
The tribes have argued the earlier compact gives them exclusive rights to all internet games, which include sports betting. Allowing any other operator or casino to venture into the state would force them to suspend all slot payments to the state.
The Connecticut General Assembly has convened for its 2021 legislative session with adjournment scheduled for June. In this period, it is certain that legal sports wagering and online sports wagering to be included for Connecticut will be a topic brought to the floor.
Now with Governor Lamont a leader and advocate for the sports wagering, a bill would need to pass through the Connecticut House and Senate to enable the governor to sign it into law. An expected process that will likely occur.
It also has been reported but not confirmed that Lamont is up to introducing a de facto sports betting duopoly for the tribes. Lamont had wanted a competitive marketplace, which is also favored by the overall industry, but he is now reportedly more open to giving the two tribes exclusive rights.
DraftKings has taken the prerequisite step in partnering with Foxwoods Resort Casino, anticipating this surety for sportsbooks to be legalized for Connecticut. Most inside sources believe onsite retail sportsbooks would be instantly active, however, the question involving online wagering may take a bit longer to answer and to begin operation.
Should Gov. Lamont and legislators get a jump in the early part of the year resolving all issues, there is a reasonable chance that Connecticut could potentially see legalized wagering begin sometime in 2021.
Larry Gibbs is both a seasoned journalist and a respected online gaming industry consultant. His wry commentary & sharp analysis have appeared in numerous top gaming and sports wagering publications. He has also served as Vice President of US Gaming Services, a marketing research organization with 15 years of experience in US online wagering. He has spoken at noted gaming industry conferences including G2E, GiGSE, and NCLGS.
Email: [email protected]
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