Connecticut Set To Approve Sports Betting

map close-up showing state of Connecticut
Connecticut legislators are reattempting to push forward with gambling expansion in the state through their sports betting, lottery, and casino legislation proposals. [Image:]

Since the Supreme Court decided to end the federal ban on sports betting in May 2018, many states have either already opened their sportsbooks or are on their way to doing so. The latest state that looks set to pass a sports betting bill in the near future is Connecticut.

History of Connecticut gambling

A few different forms of gambling are currently legal in Connecticut. There are two Native American casinos in the state: the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville and the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Ledyard.

These casinos are allowed thanks to the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The two tribes involved are the Mashantucket Pequot tribe and the Mohegan tribe. Another casino is currently in its development phase and will be located in East Windsor.

There is currently a 25% tax in place on slot machine revenues in return for the state giving the two Native American casinos exclusive rights to operate these machines in the estate.

In their last recorded financial year, the casinos earned more than $13bn (£9.9bn) in revenues from these slots.  Foxwoods has been open since 1986 and the Mohegan Sun opened its doors in 1996, after being officially recognized by the state in 1992.

There is also betting available on dog racing and horse racing in the state, with 16 different off-track parlors dotted around the region.

These parlors are operated by Sportech, with the two Indian casinos also providing these betting services. This form of betting has been legal, since 1971 but a number of racing tracks have closed in recent years.

Non-profits are allowed to hold a multitude of gambling-related activities for their fundraising efforts, such as bingo. However, since 2003 the likes of Las Vegas-themed charity nights offering casino games such as roulette and blackjack have been illegal.

There is a state lottery in Connecticut in addition to a variety of scratch and draw games. Residents can also partake in multi-state lotteries such as Mega Millions and Powerball. The annual revenue for the state lottery, which has been in operation since 1972, is over the $1bn (£760m) mark.

Move into sports betting

It appears that the passing of a sports betting law is now inevitable in Connecticut. Currently, five states have legalized sports betting since the Supreme Court decision – Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Mississippi.

However, the bill in Connecticut will have to wait until the mid-term elections in November are over. It appears that both the Democrats and the Republicans are planning on supporting a sports betting bill after the elections.

The Republicans refused to partake in a special session that had been based on a deal being struck between the two Native American casino operators in the state and Governor Dannell Malloy.

The Republicans want to wait until the 2019 General Assembly begins. They would also be open to the passing of a small number of agreed-upon bills that had been part of their previous conversations on a bipartisan level.

The negotiations involving the two tribes are not on hold since the Republicans made this decision at the end of August. There is no alternative to be taken, as Republican support is needed for this issue to be passed.

The tribes are naturally hesitant about sports betting being opened up on a state-wide level as this would dilute their reach. It could also lead to an ending of their exclusive rights on slot machines in the state, something that has been extremely lucrative for them.

The chief of staff for the Mohegan tribe, Chuck Bunnell, said he is hopeful that the elections in November will not affect on their ability to secure the legalization of sports betting in Connecticut.

The Republicans are more in favor of opening up sports betting to non-Native American operators. Representative Vincent Candelora, currently the second-ranked Republican in the House of Representatives in Connecticut, told NBC Connecticut: “I think sports betting should be opened up to the private market because I don’t believe the compact ever contemplated sports betting for the tribes. We gave them authority to run casinos. No more, no less.”

While this is an issue that will have to be debated, the November elections could play a significant role in which way this sports betting bill ultimately goes towards – exclusive rights for the Native American casinos or a more open market.

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