Do not adjust your receiver: a new Connecticut sports betting bill did just appear at the state legislature.
Yes, it’s the same Connecticut that enacted a sports betting law in 2017. The state never moved forward under that law because of tribal concerns and expansion questions, so here we are.
A group of nine Democratic state senators introduced legislation Thursday to address legal sports betting in Connecticut. This bill follows a failed effort by former Gov. Dannel Malloy to clear the path in 2018.
The placeholder bill, S 665, gives little insight into what specifics the senators hope to address via new legislation:
That the general statutes be amended to authorize wagering on the results of certain sporting events.
Why is a new Connecticut sports betting bill needed?
The state’s apparent standing prohibition on sports betting looks like a reasonable target for new legislation. Legislators also could provide clearer direction on the future of mobile sports betting, though regulators also could tackle it.
To this point, though, state regulators do not feel they have sufficient clarity on outstanding concerns to issue rules. However legitimate that stance, it contradicts the direction of the 2017 law:
The Commissioner of Consumer Protection shall adopt regulations, in accordance with the provisions of chapter 54 of the general statutes, to regulate wagering on sporting events to the extent permitted by state and federal law.
It’s not that simple though …
The most pressing issue in Connecticut sports betting remains the dispute over exclusivity between tribal casinos and state government.
The Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes say legalized sports betting violates their state compacts. (They own and operate Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, respectively, in Connecticut.)
The tribes contend sports betting falls under their assigned rights in the agreement with the state. Connecticut attorney general George Jepsen disagrees and put it in writing in April.
His letter states in part:
… because sports wagering is a Class III game under federal law and is not an authorized game under either of the respective Compacts, the Tribes would still be prohibited from conducting sports wagering on their reservations.
Moreover, 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 … Sports betting is not listed as an authorized game.
What’s at stake for Connecticut
The tribes threatened to stop slot revenue payments to the state if they did not retain exclusive rights to offer sports betting. Those payments are 25 percent of total slot revenue and most recently equated to $250 million in Connecticut’s budget.
Jepsen replied to that move by pointing out that without a valid compact, slots on tribal land might not be legal.
Malloy attempted to negotiate a deal between the tribes and the state before leaving office. After legislative leaders resisted those efforts, Malloy abandoned his plans.