House Representative Mike DiMassa resigned immediately upon being accused of misappropriating over $600,000 in COVID relief funds

CT Lawmaker Resigns Amid Gambling-Related Scandal, Days After State’s Online Casino Launch

Less than a week after Connecticut launched online casinos and sportsbooks, one lawmaker who voted for the legislation has resigned.

State Rep. Michael DiMassa, D-West Haven, stepped down today amid accusations of gambling away allegedly misappropriated federal Covid-19 funds from February to September that were meant to help his former constituents. The timing of his departure cast a shadow over what a more positive announcement the same day: The Connecticut Lottery Corporation (CLC) opened its first retail sportsbook – at Sports Haven in New Haven.

Nothing in the accusations against DiMassa relates to online gambling specifically. However, the timing is unfortunate and creates some bad optics for the state.

DiMassa’s bio and contact pages had already been removed from the Connecticut General Assembly site before the 2 p.m. sportsbook opening.

Before Gov. Ned Lamont attended the ribbon-cutting, he released a statement about DiMassa:

“The allegations against Mike DiMassa are serious and very troubling. If the allegations are true, he has not only broken the law but also betrayed the public trust. He had no choice but to resign. The citizens of West Haven and all of Connecticut deserve honest government.”

Lamont then joined CLC and its retail sports betting partners – PlaySugarHouse Sportsbook by Rush Street Interactive (RSI); and Winners by Sportech Venues – at Sports Haven. PlaySugarHouse is also the CLC’s online sportsbook partner.

DiMassa himself is no longer allowed to participate in gambling in the state, including the online options he voted for.

The CT Mirror reported on Oct. 22:

“In court, DiMassa claimed he was suffering from a gambling addiction, and a federal judge ordered him Wednesday not to place any online bets or step foot inside a casino after being released on $250,000 bail.”

DiMassa allegedly gambled with Covid-19 aid money

Before today, DiMassa was both a state lawmaker and a municipal employee. Similar to the Connecticut General Assembly site, DiMassa’s information was gone this afternoon from the City of West Haven‘s site. He had served there as an assistant to the West Haven City Council, but also resigned from that position today, WFSB reported.

It was in his capacity as a city employee that DiMassa allegedly funneled $636,783.70 in federal stimulus money from the city into a business called Compass Investment Group. The funds had been intended to help Americans weather the pandemic. According to allegations by the US Justice Department, DiMassa and one other person were principals Compass, which was set up in January this year.

On Oct. 20, the day of DiMassa’s arrest, the New Haven Register reported on the allegations:

“Federal authorities further allege Compass Investment Group never provided any services to the West Haven Public Health Department, though the city was billed for services.”

Federal authorities claim DiMassa instead withdrew $178,150 from the Compass business account with Webster Bank. DiMassa made 10 alleged exchanges of cash for poker chips from May 7 to 29, totaling $57,700, according to Mohegan Sun Patron Gaming records cited in the arrest warrant.

The CT Mirror reported West Haven only got $1.2 million in CARES Act funding.

Meanwhile, CT online gambling continues

Connecticut sports betting saw the first of CLC’s 15 retail sportsbook locations launch today. However, retail sportsbooks at the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino took initial bets on Sept. 30 through their partners – FanDuel Sportsbook and DraftKings Sportsbook at Foxwoods, respectively.

Then on Oct. 19, the online sportsbook components of all three launched after completing a six-day soft-launch period.

Simultaneously, Mohegan Sun Casino – powered by FanDuel – began serving gamblers.

DraftKings also partnered in online casino wagering with Foxwoods owners, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation.

Aside from DiMassa’s scandal, Connecticut’s online gambling launch has gone quite smoothly. The only other potentially controversial moment came on Oct. 4. That day, Mohegan Sun briefly suspended wagering in order to remove lines on games involving the Connecticut Sun. Mohegan Sun is also the owner of that WNBA team, making it inappropriate for the casino to take bets on it.

- Heather Fletcher is the lead writer with OnlinePokerReport. She's a career journalist, with bylines in The New York Times, Adweek and other publications. Reach her at [email protected]
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