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Connecticut is one of a handful of states with a new sports betting law on the books. In 2017, lawmakers passed a gaming package which called on regulators to establish the state’s industry pending a change in federal law.
That change came in May. The US Supreme Court struck down the federal ban that prohibited states from regulating the activity. No longer bound by PASPA, each individual state is free to create its own sports betting industry.
Connecticut’s law became active under that ruling, but it still needs some work. Regulators have asked for more direction, and state-tribe friction has hindered the process so far. There’s a clear appetite for sports betting, though, including among the tribes.
The legislature adjourned May 9 — five days before the SCOTUS ruling — and Gov. Dannel Malloy has expressed a desire to call a special session on the issue. CT lawmakers did as much digging on sports betting as any state in 2018 but failed to get a bill over the line in time.
A potential deal between Malloy and the tribes reached advanced discussions, but no agreement officially went into place before the 2018 election to replace the retiring governor.
Here are the sports wagering bills that have appeared in 2019.
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Connecticut has several forms of legal gambling outside of sports betting.
The state’s two tribal casinos generate billions of dollars in annual revenue from table games, slots and bingo. They’re owned by the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes, who are planning to build a third casino near East Windsor. Connecticut also has a significant pari-mutuel wagering industry (including off-track horse betting) and a state lottery.
In 2017, Gov. Dannel Malloy signed the gaming expansion that granted permission for the East Windsor casino. It was accompanied by a “sweetener bill” which included (1) a new advisory council for large entertainment venues, (2) an expansion to the state’s OTBs, and (3) the direction to establish sports betting regulations if federal hurdles are removed.
Here’s what the law says:
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.
Regulators in Connecticut aren’t quite ready to move forward, though. The Department of Consumer Protection asked the legislature for more guidance, spawning a series of investigative hearings on the topic.
In the time since passage, lawmakers have become educated about the sports betting industry as they’ve looked to shape the Division’s framework. Lobbyists from the NBA and MLB have testified in support of CT sports betting, provided the regulations include integrity fees paid directly to them.
Yes. But there’s a “but.”
You still can’t bet on sports right now in the state. Connecticut’s law directs regulators to adopt sports betting regulations, and that hasn’t happened yet. Regulators want more legislation to guide their hand.
That’s a big ask under CT’s complicated gambling landscape, which requires careful navigation of tribal compacts. The legislature has already adjourned for the year.
The Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) oversees the state’s current gambling activity, including sports betting.
Nowhere currently. Regulators and lawmakers will determine which forms of sports betting are permitted and how/where those wagers can be placed.
There is no current application process to offer sports betting in Connecticut.
The legal gambling age is 21 for casino gaming and 18 for pari-mutuel wagering.
It’s too early to say for sure, but lawmakers have explored allowing mobile and internet betting. League lobbyists argue that mobile betting is necessary to capture more wagers that are currently being placed illegally or offshore.
In March, the Public Safety and Security Committee held an exploratory hearing on sports betting. Lawyers from the NBA and MLB attended to pitch their list of wants, including the ability to restrict wagers and the right to collect an integrity fee.
The committee spent hours digging into the details of the industry, including what sorts of regulation make the most sense. Where and on which sports should wagering be allowed? What sort of fee and tax structure would make Connecticut competitive? Should the leagues be allowed to have a “data monopoly” with regard to official stats? Why should they receive a cut at all?
Lawmakers pushed back on the integrity fee, which the NBA lawyer referred to as a “royalty fee.” The leagues argue that the strength of their brand and the need to bolster their monitoring tools necessitate inclusion in the revenue from sports betting. They’re asking for one percent of all money wagered, which could amount to a lot of money.
The committee’s chair, Rep. Joe Verrengia, said he is not interested in “lining the pockets” of leagues through CT sports betting.
Foxwoods Resort Casino later submitted testimony saying it favors legalization.
Public Act 17-209 is the law that moves to regulate sports betting in Connecticut. The Act directs the DCP to expand their oversight to the new industry to the extent permitted by state and federal law.
Shortly after passage, the Department indicated that it was aware of its new responsibilities:
DCP is tasked with adopting regulations to regulate wagering on sporting events to the extent permitted by state and federal law. The Department is also aware of the New Jersey case that the U.S. Supreme Court is taking up and will continue to monitor federal activity surrounding sports betting.
The DCP subsequently asked for more guidance in establishing the regulatory framework for Connecticut sports betting.