- In fiscal year 2018, the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes provided the CT with $273 million
- Connecticut tribal leadedrs are fighting for sports gambling exclusivity in the state
- MGM Resorts and other casinos have expressed interest in enterting the CT sports betting market
HARTFORD, Conn. – The state of sports betting in Connecticut may have gotten a little more complicated with a public hearing held earlier this week by the General Assembly’s Public Safety and Security Committee.
Tribes, lottery, and even ex-manager Bobby Valentine all want a piece of any potential legislation the committee will try to introduce. But, each party wants exclusivity of the practice, making it all the more difficult for any bills to possibly get passed.
Connecticut sports betting was already partially legalized in 2017, but official regulations concerning this expansion of gambling were not put in place.
Since then, neighboring state Rhode Island has opened two sportsbooks at their casinos and are hoping to unveil mobile betting this year as well. New York has also legalized wagering on sports at four of their casinos and are planning to open sportsbooks at those locations later this year.
Connecticut state officials have estimated that sports gambling in their state could be worth $100 million annually, and if taxed, could generate anywhere between $8 million to $20 million for the state.
However, if they do not pass legislation this year, any estimated funds may be lost to the sportsbooks held in nearby states.
Connecticut Tribes Present Stronghold On Gambling
The current compact between the state and the two Native American tribes, Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan, gives the tribes a strong argument for why they should be apart of any bill moving forward.
The tribal compact allows the state to take in 25 percent of revenues generated by slot machines at the Foxwoods Resort and Mohegan Sun Casinos. In 2018, that percentage totaled up to be $273 million given to the state.
Ray Pineault, President and General Manager of Mohegan Sun, expressed his concern over the future of the compact during the public hearing.
“It is our belief that we cannot do anything that puts these agreements in jeopardy,” he said.
Rodney Butler, Chairman of the Mashantucket Pequots, took the matter even further and said that if legislation were to pass allowing for another commercial casino to open, the tribe would end any payments made to the state.
The amount of tax revenue generated by this compact is substantial and may not be something lawmakers want to tamper with, given the fact that sports betting revenue is traditionally much lower than that seen from other forms of gambling.
Connecticut Lottery Pushes Big Returns
Certain state’s that have legalized sports betting in the past year have allowed their lottery commission to create regulations and oversee the activity, but have not allowed them to operate sportsbooks.
The Connecticut Lottery Corp., hopes to be the first to do so and presented a strong reason why.
“Our estimates show that we will return about four to five times as much money per dollar wagered as any other operator,” said Greg Smith, CEO and President of the Connecticut Lottery Corp. “This is because, just like any other lottery game, we would give the state all of the profits the Lottery generates from sports betting, as opposed to a small return on profits that the casinos or commercial operators would pay.”
Off-track Betting Sites Also Want A Piece Of The Action
Bobby Valentine, former MLB player and manager, owns a pair of sports bars in Connecticut. Those bars already offer off-track wagering on horses, greyhounds, and jai alai competition.
As part of the hearing, Valentine stated his case for why he believes sites like his should also be allowed to include sports betting. He also expressed a feeling of urgency on the matter.
“If you can make the change to offer legal and safe sports betting for your constituents, then let’s go, it’s game time,” he said.
If Connecticut lawmakers want to avoid missing another opportunity to legalize sports wagering, they will have to select a sports betting operator before this year’s legislative session ends June 5.
– In his career, Hasan has worked both local and state government positions—including the Attorney General’s Office in Florida. On top of being familiar with the legislative process, he has also been researching and writing on the legality of sports betting across the US. Outside of work you’ll most likely find him producing or playing music, playing sports, or working on creative writing projects. You’ll also catch him at Doak Campbell Stadium cheering on the Noles.