2020 Vision: Connecticut Sports Betting Ready To Narrow Focus

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Connecticut Sports Betting

Twenty states have some form of legal sports betting law. This series looks ahead to which states could have legislative action to regulate sports betting in 2020.

Next up: Connecticut.

Connecticut sports betting presents a tricky situation. Gambling entities in the state are limited to two powerful Indian tribes and the state lottery. However, private casino interests have been trying to make an entrance for years.

The tribes, governor and most lawmakers want legal, regulated Connecticut sports betting. Tribal gaming revenue, and the contribution it generates for the state, has been on a decade-long decline. Sports betting could help to reverse that trend.

However, the state has tried to use sports betting as a carrot to get tribes to come to the table and make concessions in regard to their exclusivity on gambling in other areas.

Recent comments from the governor give hope that the stalemate between the state and tribes on CT sports betting could be broken in the coming year.

What happened in CT sports betting in 2019

New Gov. Ned Lamont hinted that Connecticut sports betting wouldn’t be coming in 2019 by not including any revenue from the activity in the state budget. However, he declared his intentions by calling sports betting in CT “one of the building blocks for a balanced budget in the future.”

Possibly the longest legislative gaming hearing on record illustrated the complexity of gambling issues in Connecticut.

The House Public Safety and Security Committee, chaired by Rep. Joe Verrengia, introduced H 7311 to authorize CT sports betting at tribal casinos, potentially commercial casinos, off-track betting parlors, online and with the Connecticut Lottery.

Behind the scenes, discussions between Lamont and the Connecticut tribes — Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan — on a comprehensive gambling expansion appeared close in May and June, according to emails obtained by the Hartford Courant.

After talks with the governor broke down, Sen. Cathy Osten, whose district surrounds the tribal casinos, proposed a comprehensive gambling bill favored by the tribes. Her attempts to get it taken up in a special session were unsuccessful.

What might happen in Connecticut in 2020?

It appears Lamont is ready to table the idea of a comprehensive gambling agreement to make Connecticut sports betting happen in 2020.

Lamont told capitol reporters that, while he’d like a larger gambling solution, he would “take what I can get” in the meantime:

“Let’s keep it simple. Right now, the iLottery is important to us. It’s one of the things we had in mind when it came to how we can subsidize community college and move toward debt-free community college. Sports betting is something where I think we can reach broad agreement going forward.”

By putting iLottery and CT sports betting in the same statement, Lamont could be indicating that the state would trade sports betting to tribes in exchange for not fighting the state on offering an online lottery.

Tribal complexities may be overcome in CT

Since the early 1990s, the tribes have paid the state 25% of slot revenues in exchange for the exclusive right to offer casino games in Connecticut.

The tribes have long expressed that they would be happy to begin offering sports betting at the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos as soon as possible and figure out the broader issues at a later date.

Other gambling topics at issue in Connecticut include internet gambling, extending the liquor hours of tribal casinos past 2 a.m., and allowing the tribes or private companies to build casinos on non-tribal lands in Bridgeport and East Windsor.

Connecticut’s legislative session begins Feb. 5 and goes to May 6.