Online Poker Report

Connecticut Online Poker And Casino

Connecticut is back in the conversation as it once again moves to legalize online gambling. The potential has increased greatly, with many of the gaming interests in the state eyeing iGaming.

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Legal online poker in Connecticut

Connecticut is widely considered to be a prime candidate for legal online poker.

The state has nurtured a sustainable tribal gaming industry, backstopped by a pair of social online casinos. The state lottery is looking to diversify its offerings, and sports betting has even appeared as a hot topic. In addition, the expansion of land-based casinos has stiffened the competition in the region.

The CT landscape is framed by the presence of two tribal operations. The Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot have compacts in place that give them exclusive rights to offer casino gaming, and any state endeavor could be cause to cease revenue-sharing payments. Those payments amount to hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

The state certainly doesn’t want to jeopardize that arrangement, but it does have an appetite to offer its own gaming products. Lawmakers have been toying with legal iGaming for years without much progress.

Recent discussions provide some cause for optimism, though. The tribes have come on board in full support, potentially eliminating one of the major hurdles. They still expect to have exclusivity in the space, however. The two parties would need to align on the terms of legalization, which is easier said than done.

Connecticut online poker news

Snapshot: 2019 legislative session

Connecticut is one of the top candidates to legalize online gambling, and the new year begins with an ambitious bill in the Senate.

S 17 would allow the commercial and tribal casinos to offer all forms of internet gambling, including sports betting. The bill would also permit the Connecticut Lottery to roll out an online Keno product.

Any expansion would be subject to amended agreements with the two tribes.

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Connecticut online poker history

2018: Getting close, but still no cigar

It seemed like stakeholders were starting to align on gambling issues in 2018. At the very least, there was increasing appetite for expansion.

Early in the year, Foxwoods entered into a partnership with PariPlay, a real-money digital casino provider. It’ll begin as a land-based deal, with the tribe offering internet gaming to customers physically on site. If things break favorably in the legislature, though, online gambling could be available alongside sports betting in the future.

The tribe calls iGaming the “strongest opportunity for the state.

Mohegan Sun, meanwhile, has already adopted real-money online gambling — not in Connecticut, where it’s illegal, but in New Jersey, where it thrives. The Mohegan tribe operates Resorts Casino in Atlantic City, along with the Mohegan Sun online casino. It also owns a property in Pennsylvania, which is preparing to launch its own iGaming industry.

The Mohegan tribe has joined Foxwoods in support of legalization in CT.

Connecticut’s legislative session expired on May 9, however, so the deadline to move on iGaming passed for the year. Discussions surrounding other forms of gaming, such as sports betting, are still actively underway behind the scenes.

Both issues are secondary to the proposed East Windsor project, though. Until that complicated situation is settled, any gambling proposals are unlikely to move forward.

State attorney general George Jepsen issued an opinion on how some forms of gambling expansion might impact tribal agreements.

2012-2017: iGaming conversation stagnates

Gov. Dannel Malloy has been talking about the issue since at least 2012. Early that year, the governor told the Associated Press that he felt iGaming was inevitable in Connecticut. In the next breath, though, he called it unlikely to move forward in the near term.

“Clearly, there’s not a lot of excitement around the issue,” he subsequently told The Day. His statement came following the state’s first serious hearing on the issue, conducted by a public safety panel.

At the time, the Mohegan tribe indicated it was only interested in online poker, not other forms of iGaming. Executives expressed concerns over cannibalizing their land-based casino (which, incidentally, have been disproven in other markets). Foxwoods, on the other hand, began its pitch for a broad expansion of internet gaming.

The issue took a backseat for a couple years, though, while regional operators assessed casino expansion in neighboring states. Rather than being worried about potential iGaming cannibalization, there was new concern that competing casinos would become the problem.

Seemingly sensing the pressure, the CT tribes have ramped up their iGaming efforts during the last year.

Connecticut’s land-based casino industry

Connecticut’s two tribes each run their own land-based casino.

Foxwoods Resort Casino is located in Mashantucket, in the southeast foothills of the state. Opened in 1992, it’s still one of the largest casinos in the world with around 345,000 square feet of gaming space and 2,250 hotel rooms. The poker room holds more than 100 tables, too, making it the largest one outside of California.

The Mohegan tribe operates Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, about ten miles west of Mashantucket. With almost 365,000 square feet of casino space, it’s even larger than Foxwoods. A mammoth property in every sense, Mohegan Sun offers more than 1,500 hotel rooms, thousands of slot machines, a 12,000-seat arena, and the largest conference space in the northeast. The property opened in 1996, employing around 10,000 people.

The Mohegan tribe has been branching out from its CT roots in recent years, too.

When Pennsylvania authorized casinos in 2006, the tribe purchased Pocono Downs Raceway for $280 million. The rebranded Mohegan Sun Pocono has since managed to carve out a comfortable spot in PA’s casino market. The tribe has also pursued expansion into New York and Massachusetts, along with a proposed project in East Windsor.

Combined, CT’s tribes generate more than $1 billion in annual slot revenue, and they return 25 percent to the state under current compacts. The numbers have been fairly flat for the last decade, though, and emerging casinos in nearby states threaten to choke off some of that revenue stream.

Mohegan Sun is already providing a case study on the benefits of iGaming elsewhere. Its NJ online casino network, including Resorts, earns about $4 million a month. Mohegan Sun Pocono will almost certainly launch a PA online casino, as well.

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