In theory, Connecticut sports betting could start before the start of football season. It’s the outcome many of the parties involved wants.
Making that desire a reality could prove quite difficult, though, with a web of complications preventing it. And meanwhile, neighboring Rhode Island is ready to launch sports betting in the fall.
Following the US Supreme Court repeal of PASPA, Gov. Dannel Malloy expressed openness to a special session this summer to legalize Connecticut sports betting. Before that can happen, Malloy and state officials want to strike a deal with the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes that operate Connecticut’s two casinos — Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun.
Negotiations have not moved far
Judging by how both sides are talking at the moment, Connecticut sports betting will not arrive anytime soon.
“In general terms, we don’t have an agreement,” Malloy said at a media briefing recently. “I think we’re a ways from an agreement, so don’t anyone hold your breath.”
The tribes contend that legal sports betting in Connecticut will violate the compacts they entered into with the state. Those compacts, they say, give them the exclusive right to offer sports betting.
Connecticut’s attorney general disagrees with how the tribes interpret their right to exclusivity on sports betting. George Jepsen wrote in an April 17 letter to House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz:
“… it is our opinion that if sports betting were to become lawful in Connecticut, the Tribes would not have an exclusive right under the existing Compacts and MOUs to offer it.”
Slot payments to state in play
If legislators approve sports betting elsewhere in Connecticut, the tribes are threatening to stop slot revenue payments to the state. That payment accounted for more than $270 million in Connecticut’s coffers in 2017, an amount the tribes know gives them some leverage.
“All we can say is that we continue to meet and appreciate the time everyone is committing to explore options,” said Chuck Bunnell, Mohegan Tribe chief of staff, in an email to The Day.
Sports betting not the only issue
Malloy also discussed recently the possibility of including other forms of online gambling into a renegotiated compact with the tribes.
“It makes sense to negotiate both in one negotiation,” Malloy said in The Day.
Legislators do not appear to agree with the governor, presenting another potential stumbling block to approving legal sports betting. Aresimowicz said his caucus would look at sports betting, but likely only through licensed casinos and not attached to other online gambling.
They would need to take up the sports betting issue in a special session if Malloy calls one. That likely would not happen until the state completes a “veto session” in late June to deliberate overrides of Malloy vetoes.