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A potential early Christmas gift for anxious Connecticut sports bettors as DraftKings Sportsbook announced a deal Monday morning with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation of Connecticut, owner, and operator of Foxwoods. The significant partnership could lay the groundwork for sports betting in the state sometime next year.
Certainly, the deal will be a catalyst in Connecticut, whose sports betting legalization progress has been slowed by numerous complications with the state’s gaming deals involving the Mashantucket and the Mohegan Native American tribes.
While the tribes will require their opinion confirmed and approved by legislative and regulatory authorities in the state, sports gaming lawyer Daniel Wallach commented that the deal DraftKings Sportsbook put forth does move the ball forward.
DraftKings Sportsbook representatives agreed while cautioning the deal is subject to legislative and regulatory approval, though there is precedent for Native American tribes going independent when they believe their deal is established. As an example, tribes in New Mexico have advanced with sports wagering legislation despite the state had yet to formally legalize it.
It definitely strengthens the tribe’s position to have DraftKings, the most significant force in mobile sports betting in the Northeast, behind them. And for DraftKings Sportsbook, it would obviously be tremendously lucrative if they could take this agreement and basically have an exclusive to mobile sports betting like they have in New Hampshire.
The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, which owns and operates Foxwoods, and DraftKings said their deal will set the stage for online sports betting “ahead of the anticipated launch of legal sports betting in Connecticut.” They insist they have exclusive gambling rights, drawing threats of lawsuits by commercial sports betting sites that will not accept being shut out of competition for Connecticut’s market.
“We’ve proven our ability to shape the future of gaming time and time again and now we’re ready to drive sports wagering and online gaming for the state of Connecticut,” said Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket.
The tribes maintain that the deal they agreed to with the state of Connecticut in 1994 gives them sovereignty over all gaming in Connecticut providing they issue 25% of all slot revenue back to the state. At present, that issue is still to be debated.
Wallach submitted his written testimony to the state legislature upon legal opinion the agreement 25 years ago meant that the tribes would maintain complete control over casino games, but not a broad interpretation of every casino game.
Wallach disclosed to The Action Network,
Casino games, like table games, in my mind, are different from sports betting in that they are contained within a casino and are largely games of chance.Sports betting involves activities that happen outside of a casino and it can be argued have more to do with skill.
Several Connecticut legislators that will be involved with the sports wagering negotiation process also echoed similar sentiments commenting on the issue.
“Sports betting will be legalized in 2021,” said Rep. Sean Scanlon, incoming House chairman of the legislature’s finance committee. “You can bet on it. The failure in previous years is a missed opportunity. It’s one of my biggest priorities.”
Gov. Ned Lamont and the legislature irked that neighboring states are capitalizing on lucrative sports betting, have unsuccessfully sought to draft legislation permitting sports betting and making other changes in Connecticut’s gambling law. Each attempt has run aground on the state’s compacts with Foxwoods and the Mohegan Sun.
Lamont mentioned he will introduce legislation on expanded gambling after negotiating with the casino’s tribal owners.
Lamont told reporters at his regular briefing on the coronavirus,
I want to put forward something that works, that doesn’t result in litigation, that gets us off the dime. We’ve been talking about this for close to a decade in this state. And I think Connecticut ought to participate and it ought to be led by the tribes.”
When being further probed concerning the issue, the governor would not say whether his legislation would give the tribes exclusivity rights to online gambling while sharing sports betting with other operators.
Together, online gambling and sports betting are projected to generate $175 million in new revenue for the state over a five-year period according to Foxwoods and DraftKings. Butler said the state’s share would be $40 million to $60 million a year. Should the state authorize Keno and iLottery, a phone app to buy lottery tickets, revenue would project to be twice that amount, he said.
Matt Kalish, co-founder, and president of DraftKings North America called the Foxwoods agreement a “landmark deal” and a ” critical next step” to bringing its sportsbook app to Connecticut.
DraftKings Sportsbook is live with mobile sports betting in 10 US states, more than any other operator in the US, according to company sources.
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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