The state of Connecticut’s chances for legal online/mobile sportsbooks and broader forms of online gaming were described Tuesday as being stuck on the 1-yard line, but with “15 defensive players” blocking the TD.
An hours-long hearing was held in front of the Joint Public Safety and Security Committee.
The situation in the Nutmeg State is incredibly complex from a legal standpoint. The state is essentially deadlocked when it comes to expanding gambling, and there’s no end on the horizon. Even if gambling expansion is passed, there would very likely be litigation that could take years to play out.
Tribal casino complications
Gambling expansion has been the subject of a long-running debate in Connecticut. The state is home to two tribal casinos, which have contributed tremendously to the state economically, and a lottery. The state is essentially mulling over legislation that would keep sports betting under the tribal gaming exclusivity and legislation that would also allow the lottery and off-track betting (OTB) sites to have the activity.
Foxwoods Casino and Mohegan Sun argued Tuesday that sports betting would fall under the exclusivity guaranteed by their compacts. Connecticut takes in hundreds of millions of dollars annually in revenue sharing. Revenue-sharing payments would stop if the tribes don’t have exclusivity for legal sports wagering.
The tribes support Senate Bill 21, which would also expand brick-and-mortar gambling in the state.
Meanwhile, the Connecticut Lottery came out in support Tuesday of House Bill 158.
One lawmaker applauded the tribes for their history in the state amid the contentious debate.
“Let me get this straight,” the state policymaker told the tribes and others in attendance, “you get no money from the state, you have given us $9 billion, you are two of the top 10 employers in the state, you provide the resources to combat any ills associated with gaming. It’s getting hard for me to count all the things you do for us. You support non-profits. Again, I’m a little confused why people want to tear apart relationships.”
Governor weighs in
Gov. Ned Lamont, a Democrat, supports HB 158, which he apparently considers to be narrower gambling expansion, though it would allow more retail sports wagering around the state.
The governor “wants to sign a sports betting bill into law over the next few months,” Lamont spokesman Max Reiss said in a statement to the Hartford Courant.
“Any such proposal, however, must be designed to avoid and withstand endless legal challenges, include multiple, competing mobile platforms off the tribes’ reservations, and build upon the existing footprints of all of the state’s existing gaming operators.”
The spokesperson added that HB 158 “also builds upon the state’s existing partnership with the tribes, is more likely to withstand legal challenges from third party competitors, and promotes a fair and competitive sports betting market outside the tribes’ reservations.”
One thing that both sides of the debate seem to agree on: Connecticut is falling behind other states in the region when it comes to sports betting, the hottest casino offering in the nation right now.