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When looking back on what ignited sports wagering legislation in each US state, the common thread was a governor providing the catalyst to move action and intent forward.
In his budget address last Wednesday, Gov. Ned Lamont of Connecticut reiterated his support for the legalization of sports betting and online gaming while offering some details about how that’s going to be achieved.
In submitting a new bill, he stated he has the authority to enter into amendments to the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes’ existing gaming agreements with the state. Or enter new compacts with either or both tribes concerning “the operation of sports wagering, e-sports and daily fantasy contests both on and off tribal lands” as well as online casino gaming and online keno.
Gov. Lamont’s budget proposal assumes $47.3 million from “expansion of gaming” in the 2023 fiscal year, the second year of his two-year spending plan. Lamont also has been keenly aware of rapid progress involving sports wagering legislation in other nearby New England states including Massachusetts. He commented:
Our neighboring states are moving forward with sports betting and igaming, and Connecticut should not leave these opportunities for other states to benefit from our inaction.
Senate Bill 146 would authorize the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and the Mohegan Tribe of Indians to conduct both retail and online Connecticut sports betting on tribal land. The two tribes would also be allowed to run online casino businesses.
The bill also proposes that the Connecticut Lottery Corporation will sell lottery game tickets and organize online keno games. Under the bill’s language, the legalization of Connecticut sports betting, online gambling, as well as selling of game tickets and online keno games, are subject to “new or amended agreements” with the Native American tribes.
Should SB 146 be accepted by the legislature, a set of procedures and data security rules for internet gaming will be necessary. As common with other US states, all Connecticut sports wagering, and online gambling will provide tax revenue for the state.
It is currently muddled and a bit confusing how the tribes’ claim to have exclusive rights to provide sports betting and online gaming will be resolved. Both Sportech Venues, the state’s off-track betting operator, and the Connecticut Lottery Corp. have lobbied for a piece of future action.
“Those matters are under discussion,” said Melissa McCaw, secretary of the state Office of Policy and Management, during a virtual news conference following Lamont’s address. She also said that $47.3 million in Gov. Lamont’s projected gaming revenue represents what sports betting on and off the tribes’ reservations and online casino gaming would be expected to generate.
Currently, Foxwoods, managed by one of the Native American tribes has a partnership with a major sportsbook operator, DraftKings Sportsbook. Under this new proposal, they would be figured to automatically own a substantial share for both retail and online wagering in the state.
In terms of the sports wagering question for Connecticut, it is more of “when and how” than yes or no. COVID-19 has accelerated the need for additional tax funding as it has for every US state seeking new revenue support. Although it will not solve the entire problem, legalizing sports wagering can provide potential welcome help without much government opposition.
Compared to Florida or California, other states that have incumbent issues to resolve involving Native American gaming rights, Connecticut seems to be further along. Having Governor Lamont’s ambitious support also helps the cause. He commented last week:
My administration has been in active negotiations with our tribal partners to bring the state’s gaming economy into the digital age. I am submitting legislation which reflects what I believe to be the best bet in ending this stalemate of inaction in a way which is in the best interest for the entire state.
It would be difficult to assign a timetable to potential passage for Connecticut, but the second half of the 2021 forecast looks reasonable if these issues can be fully resolved.
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.
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