CT's two gaming tribes are proponents of legal online casinos and sports gambling

Connecticut Sports Betting, Online Gambling May Be Target Of Special Session

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Support from the state’s gaming tribes wasn’t enough to push sports betting or online gambling across the finish line in Connecticut. The stars appeared to be aligning in the spring, but the state was unable to pass a bill before its legislative session came to an end on May 9.

The timing of its legislative calendar couldn’t have been worse. Less than a week after the legislature adjourned the US Supreme Court issued its opinion in the case about the federal sports wagering ban.

The SCOTUS decision found the federal law PASPA to be unconstitutional. The ruling paves the way for states like Connecticut to choose their own sports betting destiny.

Connecticut wants a mulligan

Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy is urging on the legislature after the SCOTUS decision. The governor is now considering a special session to address both issues.

“As of today, I am prepared to call the General Assembly into special session to consider legalizing sports betting in Connecticut,” Malloy said. “It is incumbent on us to consider the question of legalized sports betting in a thoughtful way that … fully realizes the economic potential that this opportunity provides.”

Hartford, we have a problem

One reason legislation wasn’t passed was a rift between the state’s gaming interests.

The tribes claim exclusivity to sports betting under their current compacts with the state. The state’s off-track betting (OTB) facilities and lottery disagree. They argue that sports betting isn’t addressed in the tribal compacts and therefore not covered by them.

Complicating matters, Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen falls on the side of the lottery and OTBs.

“Sports betting is not listed as an authorized game,” Jepsen said in a statement. “By contrast, for example, pari-mutuel betting on horse and dog racing and jai alai games are authorized games. The exclusion of sports betting from the specific list of authorized games is compelling evidence that the Compacts do not presently authorize it.”

That has the state in a very thorny predicament. The tribes are adamant that widespread authorization of sports betting would dissolve the current compacts with the state. That would put an end to the 25 percent of slot revenue the state receives.

Is online gambling the compromise?

In search of common ground, Malloy brought online casinos and poker back into the mix last week.

According to CTNewsJunkie.com, Malloy said adding online gaming to the discussion would increase the possibility of reaching an agreement with the states two gaming tribes. That augers well with the tribes’ previous comments.

In written testimony, both tribes supported sports betting and online gambling. They also said they consider online gaming a greater financial opportunity over sports betting.

In their testimony, the two gaming tribes estimated online gambling taxes would be more than double that of sports betting.

“As we see it, the strongest opportunity for the state is in legalizing statewide iGaming, another activity that is currently operating for Connecticut residents in the black market today,” said Seth Young, the executive director of online gaming for Foxwoods Resort Casino.

Avi Alroy, the vice president of interactive gaming for Mohegan Sun submitted the following in his written testimony: “To clarify, I believe that the state of Connecticut will benefit from both online casino gaming and sport wagering as it will reduce unregulated bets that are done locally and off-shore, and increase state revenues.”

And Mohegan should know. The tribe already operates an NJ online casino and is expected to launch in Pennsylvania when that states online gaming industry goes live.

It appears Malloy is dangling the tribes an online gaming carrot in exchange for them signing off on other entities offering sports betting.

- Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus for OPR is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.
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