New Connecticut Legislators Agree: Sports Betting Is Needed In Our State

New Connecticut Legislators Agree: Sports Betting Is Needed In Our StateWith the growing trend of states discussing to bring legalized sports betting to their state, Connecticut is starting to join the bandwagon. Efforts in the 2018 legislative session were held up because of mid-term elections, but a new set of legislators from Connecticut are looking to continue the conversation.

Members of the Southeastern Connecticut legislative delegation—spearheaded by Senator Cathy Osten (D–Sprague)—entered a bipartisan bill which re-opened talks. Provisional Bill LCO 578 is a look into regulations and law changes which is a major step forward from last year’s bill.

“Connecticut needs to play catch-up with surrounding states if we’re serious about modernizing our existing gaming industry,” Osten said. “Fortunately, we can do that with a relatively simple regulatory fix.”

The New Connecticut Sports Betting Bill

The provisional bill has yet to be released to the public but comments regarding its text have been. Looking to amend current laws, LCO 578 is attempting to allow for an online platform and an on-location sportsbook at the two tribal casinos: the Mohegan Sun Casino and Foxwoods Resort Casino.

Included is geo-fencing technology to ensure gamblers are within certain locations (either the state or the casino grounds) and would post a minimum age to bet on sports at 21. The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes would also be granted the ability to offer live betting in both their online platform and casino sportsbook.

Though very similar to the previous bill that failed to pass, the question still remains if the tribal casinos have exclusivity over sports betting per their tribal compact. The two tribes have constantly pressed for wagering on sports to be considered a casino game but this has garnished a slight backlash, mainly from the Connecticut Lottery.

The Backlash From The Connecticut Lottery

The Connecticut Lottery believes they should have some ability to bid on the mobile platform for sports betting.
“This particular proposal will clearly benefit the tribal casinos,” claimed Lottery Spokeswoman, Tara Chozet. “The CT Lottery would optimize the returns to Connecticut, and we should be included in the conversations alongside other potential operators”

The provisional bill has a section where the lottery would be granted the rights to an online keno-style game but that doesn’t seem to impress the department. The lottery department has since asked, pending an approved bill, the right to be a licensed operator of a state-run sportsbook.

Osten hasn’t ruled it out as there are always options for the lottery and off-track facilities to join the game, but the bill would have to incur major changes during the legislative process and would grow larger concerns. Governor-Elect Ned Lamont would likely have to renegotiate a tribal compact which currently grants the tribes the sports betting exclusivity.

The Connecticut Sports Betting Bill Timeline

Time is of the essence in this case as Connecticut is watching neighboring states like Rhode Island and New Jersey bring in millions of state revenue since their inception of the industry. Legislators are worried that Connecticut residents are making the journey to the surrounding areas to engage in betting.

Senator Norm Needleman (D-Essex) agrees that Connecticut is behind in the game and the advantages are more than just additional tax revenue. He indicated, “I think it’s an issue we can quickly catch up on that will have positive employment, economic and revenue impacts on Connecticut.” Connecticut will see two of the largest employers in state benefit if this bill moves forward as scheduled.

The 2019 legislative session ends on the 5th of June and there is still much to review and approve. However, since last year, states have been approving legislation rather quickly as they have noticed what their residents are hoping for.

Legislators should move forward with the same speed to discuss and agree on terms that will bring legal sports betting in Connecticut

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