Will A New CT Sports Betting Bill Make Everyone Happy Finally?

Written By Matthew Kredell on February 25, 2020
CT sports betting

A new CT sports betting bill focuses solely on authorizing the activity with in-state gambling operators. Whether it solves any of the state’s lingering issues remains to be seen.

The bill was introduced Tuesday by the Joint Public Safety and Security Committee, which held a hearing on Connecticut sports betting last week.

It authorizes retail and online sports betting conducted by:

  • Mohegan Sun
  • Foxwoods
  • Proposed East Windsor tribal casino
  • Off-track betting parlors
  • Connecticut Lottery Corporation

Details of Connecticut sports betting update

Rep. Joe Verrengia, the co-chair of the committee, is the driving force behind H 5168. He teased its introduction at the committee hearing last week.

Key components of the CT sports betting legislation include:

  • A tiered tax rate of 10% for in-person wagers, 14.75% for online wagers.
  • A sports wagering operator license fee of $750,000 and an application fee of $100,000. Each is renewable every five years for the same amounts. The lottery is exempt from such fees.
  • A sports wagering vendor license fee of $300,000 and an application fee of $100,000. Each is renewable every five years for the same amounts.
  • The CT Lottery can offer sports wagering online and at no more than four high-tier claim centers.
  • Allows for the establishment of entertainment zones in Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, Waterbury or other municipalities. However, each facility conducting sports betting must be at least 10 miles away from one another.
  • No individual or business organization licensed as a sports wagering operator or vendor, and no business affiliated with such licensee, may own or have an equity interest in a business that cultivates or sells marijuana, cannabis or related products.
  • The law will not go into effect until the governor amends the tribal-state compacts to allow for sports betting. Then, the amendments receive an OK by the US Department of the Interior and CT General Assembly.

Changes to CT sports betting since last session

The committee introduced a sports betting bill last session as well. Facing opposition from the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes, who were also negotiating behind the scenes with Gov. Ned Lamont, the legislation went nowhere.

Compared to last year’s bill, this effort increases license fees but extends their length from two to five years, adds the higher tax rate for mobile wagers, allows for entertainment zones and limits the lottery to four retail locations.

Two other major adjustments

Two more significant changes are that the bill no longer requires people to have to establish a CT sports wagering account in person prior to placing a wager on a mobile platform. There is no mention of giving professional sports leagues a cut of the action either.

The previous bill had a vague reference to having the Commissioner of Economic and Community Development work with sports leagues to create a partnership in which sports betting revenue was used to generate professional sporting events and programs in the state.

The idea of entertainment zones, or sports betting facilities in major cities, is from the other bill in the state. Sen. Cathy Osten’s S 212 is a comprehensive gaming expansion that gives sports betting in Connecticut exclusivity to tribes.

Tribes have threatened a lawsuit if bill passes

At last week’s hearing, leaders of the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes asserted they would sue the state for breaching their contract for exclusivity to offer casino games if the state passed a law allowing other entities to provide sports betting.

The tribes also would cease making annual payments of approximately $250 million in slot revenue to the state.

Whether CT sports betting is included under the definition of casino games is a key point of contention in the state that may need to be settled in the courts for Connecticut to move forward with sports betting in any fashion.

Verrengia hopes to reach an agreement between the state and tribes to avoid such a situation.

“It’s my hope that the state can continue to work with our tribal friends to reach a mutually acceptable agreement that’s not only good for the state of Connecticut, but also good for the other stakeholders,” Verrengia said. “We have other businesses like the OTBs who have an investment in the state and an investment in jobs. They are licensed to run gaming as well as you. Let’s take care of those entities that are presently licensed in the state of Connecticut and let’s move our sports betting policy forward.”

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Matthew Kredell

Matthew started his career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News, where he covered the NFL, Kobe-Shaq three-peat, Pete Carroll’s USC football teams, USC basketball, pro tennis, Kings hockey and fulfilled his childhood dream of sitting in the Dodgers’ dugout. His reporting on efforts to legalize sports betting began in 2010, when Playboy Magazine flew him to Prague to hang out with Calvin Ayre and show how the NFL was pushing US money overseas by fighting expansion of regulated sports betting across the country. A USC journalism alum, Matt also has written on a variety of topics for Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.

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