Gov. Ned Lamont took a risk when he announced a Connecticut sports betting agreement with just one tribal partner instead of both.
That’s left some key parties pretty upset.
Lamont’s office announced an agreement for expanded gaming with the Mohegan Tribe Tuesday. The announcement came after a joint Public Safety and Security Committee hearing where hopeful CT sports betting operators weighed in on the issue.
Rodney Butler, Chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Indians, said he doubted a two-sided announcement would come with his tribe still in negotiations at the hearing. When the announcement finally did come, Butler and legislators that support the tribe both spoke out about the deal.
Legislators, Butler slam Connecticut sports betting announcement
Butler said a two-sided announcement “goes at the heart of this deal,” so he was a bit frustrated late Tuesday. Butler told local media it was “extremely disrespectful” the governor’s office moved forward with an announcement:
“After months of closed-door negotiations, it’s offensive that Governor Lamont would announce an agreement with only one of the two Tribal Nations that have been a party to the negotiations, despite full knowledge that both sovereign Nations are needed to implement any agreement.
“We have participated in these discussions in good faith and consider today’s events extremely disrespectful in terms of process and substance. Now that the Governor Lamont has laid bare the confidential terms of our negotiations, you can see the significant and substantial concessions made by both Tribes. Just permitting Lottery to participate in full sports betting, absent tax or revenue share, is a major allowance.
“We have one remaining point of contention that is easily resolved if some sense of mutual respect is afforded for the specific needs of our tribal community. We remain open to discussions and hope this is resolved quickly for the benefit of the entire state of Connecticut.”
A delegation of 17 legislators from Eastern Connecticut also spoke out in a letter to the governor’s office:
“We remain committed to the future and to the modernization of gaming in Connecticut. However, we cannot accept this agreement as it is incomplete. It is necessary that the agreement include both the Mohegan Tribe and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. Unless an agreement includes both tribes, the eastern Connecticut delegation simply cannot support it.”
Connecticut sports betting details
The announcement between the governor’s office and the Mohegan Indians finally gave insight into expanded gaming in the state:
- Sports betting revenue would be taxed at 13.5% while iGaming gets a 20% tax rate.
- The Mohegan Indians get one skin. The tribe signed Kambi as a sports betting partner nearly two years ago.
- The Connecticut Lottery also gets an online sports betting skin. That’s in addition to 15 retail locations that can allow sports betting.
- New Lottery-run sports betting venues would be built in Bridgeport and Hartford.
- The Lottery can sub-license some of those retail operations to Sportech, but Sportech won’t get an online license.
Sportech threatens to sue
Sportech is the state’s exclusive parimutuel wagering operator and has lobbied for its inclusion for years. The company is included in the plans, but only if the Connecticut Lottery allows it.
Sportech isn’t taking its place in the proposed expanded gaming agreement too well, according to a statement:
“One year ago, Governor Lamont stated he would seek a fair resolution regarding gaming expansion involving existing gaming operators that ‘must be designed to avoid and withstand endless legal challenges.’ Regretfully, the Governor’s announcement this afternoon, that principally excludes Sportech from expanded gaming, leaves us with little option but to pursue legal recourse on behalf of our 400 Connecticut employees.”
Sportech’s main argument is that sports betting is not a casino game. That means it shouldn’t be only awarded to the two tribes, which have exclusivity over casino gaming in the state.