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New Governor Ned Lamont left Connecticut sports betting out of his first budget proposal Wednesday, but called it one of the “building blocks for a balanced budget in the future.”
Despite citing the need for new revenue to close a $3.2 billion deficit, Lamont isn’t ready to count on revenue from sports betting or recreational marijuana sales. He supported both issues during his campaign, but excluded them in his 2020-21 biennial budget proposal.
Instead, Lamont proposed adding taxes and fees — including highway tolls, an expansion of sales tax and a “sin tax” on alcohol, plastic bags, sugary drinks, e-cigarettes and vaping products — to the people of Connecticut to close the budget gap.
However, Lamont closed his speech to the legislature with a shoutout to sports betting as revenue of the future:
“Beyond the two-year budget, we must enact new sources of revenues, such as sports betting and internet wagering. Legalizing recreational marijuana like our neighbors will make for a safer market that will be carefully regulated and taxed.
“By year three we will see more savings from our investment in new digital systems and online delivery of more services. These are the building blocks of a balanced budget in the future.”
During his campaign, Lamont indicated that authorizing sports betting would be a priority, and that revenue could be used to cut property taxes.
Rep. Joe Verrengia, who chairs the Public Safety and Security Committee, told Legal Sports Report last week that Lamont reached out to legislators to discuss sports betting.
“I’ve noticed a vast difference between the previous governor and Gov. Lamont,” Verrengia said. “His office reached out to me a number of times thus far to discuss sports betting, unlike the previous governor who was on the sidelines until the 11th hour.”
Verrengia expected sports betting to make the budget.
“I’m pretty certain that we’ll see revenue streams that are related to sports betting in the upcoming budget,” Verrengia said. “I think the political will is there to get it done sooner rather than later.
It’s still possible that sports betting could be added to the budget this session. The governor’s proposal begins budget negotiations with the legislature that are expected to take until the end of the session on June 9.
Connecticut has a bipartisan placeholder bill for sports betting in the Senate, S 665. That was introduced by nine lawmakers, including Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney.
However, what really needs to happen to get sports betting going is for Lamont to reach a deal with the state’s two Indian gaming tribes to renegotiate their compacts.
That deal must then be approved by the legislature, an effort Lamont’s predecessor, Gov. Dannel Malloy failed at last year.
It’s unclear whether Lamont has begun such talks with the tribes. Leaving CT sports betting out of the budget for the next two years could be an indication that he expects those negotiations to take a while.