By the end of the year — perhaps even the start of the NFL season — Connecticut could be the largest New England state with legal sports betting, as well as the first with online casino games.
A joint announcement Thursday by Gov. Ned Lamont and leaders of the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes revealed a long-awaited agreement that pushes Connecticut ahead of neighbors Massachusetts and New York in the race for modern forms of gambling revenue.
While the details remain to be approved by the state legislature and sanctioned by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, the framework allows for both retails and mobile sports betting in the state provided by three sources: the two tribes, which both have operated large casinos for decades, and the Connecticut Lottery.
DraftKings will be one operator familiar to consumers, through a partnership announced in December with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe. The Mohegan Tribe has its own deal in place with Kambi, a global oddsmaker. The Connecticut Lottery will have the option of contracting with a third brand.
The agreement allows for the entities to also provide iGaming such as online slots, table games, and poker, all of which would be taxed at a somewhat higher rate than sports betting.
Retail sports betting locations will also pop up around the state, with up to 15 operated by the lottery. Hartford and Bridgeport will be among the host cities for those.
The tribes’ separate casinos, Foxwoods Resort and Mohegan Sun, are among the largest in the U.S. and thus presumably will develop their own impressive sportsbooks on-site to match the scale of the rest of those properties.
More important to the mass of Connecticut sports fans and bettors, however — as well as those just across state borders in Massachusetts and New York — is the imminent launch of betting by phone or computer that will be available to adults positioned within the Nutmeg State. A large number of New York City residents are already known to cross into New Jersey to place quick bets by phone.
A historic moment for the tribes and state
Early this month, it became apparent progress was being made between Lamont’s office and the tribes to reach an agreement that would enable sports betting and iGaming to begin. Some of the details were unsatisfactory to the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe before ultimately being resolved this week.
The two tribes generate hundred of millions of dollars for the state through their two casinos that are operated under compact agreements that now have to be amended. The state would not have been able to launch the new forms of gambling without including them. As part of the agreement, the tribes agreed to back off of plans to jointly develop a new casino in East Windsor.
Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Chairman Rodney Butler, who had some criticism for the governor weeks ago, was satisfied by Thursday, hailing the agreement as “a historic moment for our Tribal Nation. This agreement bolsters the state’s economic development and growth, and allows us to develop a stable economic foundation for the future of our tribal community.”
No timetable was provided of just when the new gaming would begin, although it is likely to be expedited by the tribes and lottery as soon as formal approvals are completed.
Lamont said he is counting on the addition annually of “tens of millions of dollars in new revenue for the state, while keeping Connecticut competitive with gaming currently being offered or considered in neighboring states.”
Rhode Island and New Hampshire provide sports betting through single operators contracting with their state lotteries. New York allows retail sports betting at four commercial casinos, and its lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are in serious discussion about expanding to mobile options this year. Massachusetts has casino gambling but no sports betting, and while bills have been filed once more to legalize it, there’s no suggestion passage is imminent.
None of those states permits iCasino gaming as Connecticut now intends, which New Jersey and Pennsylvania have shown actually provides far more revenue to operators and the state than does sports betting.
Sportsbook tax is 13.75%, iCasinos 18%
The joint announcement provided some of the key details of the agreement, which is to be in place at least 10 years:
- Retail sports wagering revenue will be taxed at 13.75%.
- iCasino revenue will be taxed at 18% in the first five years and 20% thereafter.
- The Connecticut Lottery will be entitled to operate up to 15 retail sports betting locations in addition to having its online skin.
- The lottery may sub-license a number of those locations to operation by Sportech, which is the lottery’s parimutuel operator running OTB sites.
- The lottery may also expand into iLottery and keno, including online sale of draw tickets.
While Sportech would be allowed that retail role, it appears to be the one entity unhappy with the deal and remaining hopeful of something more, as it is left out of the chance to be part of mobile operations. In states such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania with large markets for both online and retail sports betting, the digital format has been attracting at least 90% of the betting volume.
The company released a statement saying, “We continue our dialogue with the administration in pursuing gaming expansion that does not contravene laws and discriminate against not only our employees, but all Connecticut consumers.”
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