Time Is Ticking: Connecticut Sports Betting A ‘Heavy Lift’ For This Session

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CT sports betting heavy lift

The clock is catching up to lawmakers across the country, with spring calendars already starting to expire. By this time next month, only a handful of statehouses will still be occupied.

While sports betting has become a trendy talking point for many, it’s still a minor and complicated issue on the comparative scale of importance.

With the deadline looming, states are starting to drop out of the conversation. Louisiana and Kansas, for example, are expected to table their efforts while they gather more information for future consideration.

It looks like Connecticut is going to fall into that category, too. House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz spoke with capitol reporters on Tuesday, expressing pessimism for the timeline of current legislation.

Connecticut’s regular session closes on May 9.

Aresimowicz paints a pessimistic picture

If a handicapper had sets odds earlier this year, Connecticut sports betting would have been among the favorites to pass. Comprehensive proposals appeared in both chambers, and committees have held a series of deep-seeking hearings in recent months.

The House bill (H 5307) was reported all the way to the floor, where it currently has a place on the calendar. It’s made the most progress of the two, but Aresimowicz thinks it’s the end of the line for now.

His comments were captured by CT Mirror. “I don’t know that we’re going to finish anything up this session,” Aresimowicz told reporters. “There’s a lot of moving parts and not having a comprehensive plan makes it more difficult. I’m not sure where it lands.”

Minority Leader Themis Klarides echoed those thoughts. “I think it will be a heavy lift to get done in the next couple of weeks,” she said.

‘Moving parts’ not yet in sync

The hangup doesn’t appear with sports betting itself. Although it’s a complicated topic, stakeholders have begun to fall in line over the past few weeks. There are much broader gaming issues in play, though, the “comprehensive plan” that Aresimowicz mentioned.

For starters, there are Connecticut’s two gaming tribes. The Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot pay the state hundreds of millions of dollars every year in exchange for exclusive gambling rights.

The state has an appetite to expand its industry, though, and that requires careful consideration of existing compacts. The relationship isn’t exactly without friction, so it’s always precarious to navigate these conversations.

A proposed casino in East Windsor has become the linchpin for all gaming issues. It would be a joint effort — operated by the tribes but located on commercial land — and the two have found enough common ground to proceed.

The process is grueling, though, requiring federal approval of amended compacts. The three parties recently brought suit against the US Interior Department to try to force progress.

The sports betting bills include East Windsor as a potential licensee, so until that issue is settled, related measures are unlikely to move. Unfortunately for Connecticut, the hourglass is almost empty for 2018.