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Online casinos are legal in Connecticut, but there are only two to choose from. The Nutmeg State launched its online gambling market on Oct. 19, 2021, a bit later than planned but still less than five months after Gov. Ned Lamont made it possible by putting his signature to HB 6451.
That impressive timeline was made easier by the small size of the market. Connecticut is unique among iGaming states at the moment in that the state’s two tribes enjoy the exclusive rights to casino gaming. That includes online casino games, though they agreed to share sports betting with the Connecticut Lottery in return for that privilege.
Each tribe is only authorized to operate a single online casino skin, meaning the market is a duopoly and will stay that way unless the law changes.
Connecticut’s online casino market is limited to two brands, one for each of the state’s tribes: the Mashantucket Pequot, and the Mohegan.
Each has chosen one of the major national online gambling companies as its technology partner.
Mohegan Gaming has its own online gambling division, Mohegan Digital. It operates an online casino under the Mohegan Sun brand in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey. In its home state, it is also using its own brand, but the product is different. Rather than using its own technology, it has built its Connecticut online casino, Mohegan Sun Casino, on the FanDuel Casino platform.
The Mashantucket Pequot, on the other hand, are using both DraftKings’ technology and its brand. Though their casino, Foxwoods, is a well-known name, they have not attempted to bring that brand into the online space.
Land-based partner: Foxwoods
Launch date: Oct. 19, 2021
DraftKings already offers its daily fantasy sports product in the state, and has secured a deal with Foxwoods well in advance of iGaming being legalized.
Despite its origins in the DFS space, DraftKings has been very successful in branching out into new forms of gambling. It’s a top-three operator for both sports betting and casino, and may be considering branching out into online poker, as well.
One unique aspect of the DraftKings Casino platform is that it develops its own games in-house. Although you’ll find slots titles from third-party developers, most of DraftKings’ table games are customized products with a look and feel you won’t find elsewhere. Sports themes are common among these games, though you’ll find other variations, as well; such as a blackjack game styled to resemble a 1980s video arcade.
Land-based partner: Mohegan Sun
Launch date: Oct. 19, 2021
Like DraftKings, FanDuel began its life as a daily fantasy sports company, but has emerged as a contender for market leadership in other verticals, as well. The two are long-time rivals, so it’s interesting watching the head-to-head battle in CT.
FanDuel Casino is known for having good software, which will help Mohegan Sun Casino succeed in Connecticut. As a brand, it already operates in other states, but its market share is quite small and it can be considered a work in progress. Having FanDuel to power its product in its home state is helping it compete on even footing with DraftKings.
It’s almost a given that both brands have mobile casino apps. These days, running an online casino without catering to mobile device users isn’t even an option. Some operators do go the opposite route, however, preferring to make their product mobile-only and leaving desktop users out in the cold. FanDuel in particular actually launched its mobile casino app before it had a browser version at all.
Both apps are available for iOS and Android. Downloading casino apps for Android is also easier than ever, thanks to a change in Google’s policies. It was once the case that you’d have to change your security settings to download these directly from the operator’s website. Now, however, Google allows gambling apps in the Play Store, so getting them onto your device is no different from grabbing any other kind of app.
Connecticut’s online casinos include a similar array of games to what you’ll find in any other legal iGaming state. Of course there are slots, table games and video poker. Live dealer games are available but are streaming from out-of-state on a limited time basis. The emergency rule allowing the casinos to do this will expire in March next year, however, so Evolution Gaming or another company will need to open a studio in the state before then if the games are to continue to be available.
The majority of online casinos focus on slots for the same reason as retail casinos: They’re popular with players and big revenue generators for the operator.
Most of the slots you’ll find online are video slots. These multi-reel games are fully digital, even when played on a physical machine in a retail casino. That means there’s very little effort required by the developer to adapt them to online play.
You will also find adaptations of mechanical-reel stepper slots at some online casinos. Everi is a major manufacturer of these, and takes pains to make the digital versions as faithful to the originals as possible.
Some online slots include progressive jackpots, which can make for some very big prizes indeed, often in the millions of dollars.
There are two table games you’re essentially guaranteed to find at any online casino: Blackjack and Roulette. Most casinos will offer several versions of each. DraftKings in particular is known for its creativity with these games, as it develops its own titles in house, many of which feature sports themes.
Other games you’ll find at most – but not all – online casinos include Keno, Baccarat and various casino poker games, like Three-Card Poker or Ultimate Texas Hold’em. The deal Connecticut has struck with the tribes allows for the lottery to offer online Keno, which may make it less appealing for the casinos to do so.
Far less common is online craps. Players request it frequently, but it just doesn’t translate as well online as some other games. Relatively few online casinos offer it.
Video poker falls somewhere in between slots and table games, but most online casinos lump it in with the latter. You’ll usually find a few options available, most of them resembling the various Game King machines you’ll find in Las Vegas bars and casinos. These include single- and multi-hand versions, Deuces Wild, Double Bonus, etc.
Be sure to study the strategy for your chosen video poker variant before playing. Video poker offers some of the lowest house edges available if played correctly, but bad decisions can be costly.
Live dealer games bridge the gap between retail and online play. Rather than relying on a random-number generator, the game’s outcome is based on the deal of real cards or spin of a real wheel, by a flesh-and-blood casino dealer. The game takes place in a live streaming studio, so you can see all the action just as if you were at a real casino table. In most cases, you can even interact with the dealer and potentially other players through live chat.
The problem with these games is that building a live dealer studio is expensive and until very recently, there was only one company doing it in the US: Evolution Gaming. For now, they can stream games to Connecticut from their studios in other states. However, that permission will expire in March 2022, so they’ll need to build a Connecticut studio in the meantime if they want to continue. Whether they do so presumably depends on whether they find they’re making enough money in these early months to justify the cost.
The further gambling expansion in the US advances, the easier payment processing gets. Whereas getting money onto and off of sites was once a bit of a chore, there are now a wide range of options. Whatever your situation, you’ll find one that works well for you.
The exact methods available vary from state to state and site to site. In Connecticut, the list looks like this:
Withdrawals work similarly, but some methods are only available for deposit. For instance, you can’t withdraw to a credit card, so if you’ve chosen that method to deposit you’ll need another way to cash out. Fortunately, even if nothing else works for you, there’s always the option to receive a check in the mail, though this is the slowest of all withdrawal methods.
You also have the option to carry out either type of transaction at the casino cage of the corresponding retail casino. So, if you’re playing on DraftKings, you can do your cashiering at Foxwoods, while Mohegan Sun users can do it at the eponymous retail casino.
With only two operators to choose from, Connecticut players won’t have quite the same range of promotional options that players in other states do. On the other hand, going toe-to-toe for market share might mean that DraftKings and Mohegan Sun try some aggressive marketing. It’s also an open question whether Mohegan Sun will generally set its own promotional strategy, or else copy that used by its partner FanDuel Casino in other states. It’s probably the case that DraftKings’ offers will mostly echo what it’s doing elsewhere.
What we can tell you for now is what sign-up offers each has on tap.
Mohegan Sun will give you $1000 in risk-free play for the first 24 hours. What that means is that when you place your first casino bet, the clock starts running. If you have less money than you started with after 24 hours have elapsed, you’ll receive site credit equal to your losses, up to a maximum of $1000.
Note that this deal is meant to match the $1000 risk-free first bet offered by FanDuel Sportsbook. The two are mutually exclusive. Once you’ve placed a sports bet with FanDuel you’re no longer eligible for the Mohegan Sun casino bonus and vice versa. You’ll have to choose which vertical you prefer for your $1000 risk-free offer.
DraftKings offers up to $2000 as a 100% first deposit match. Note that this comes with a 10x playthrough requirement so you’d need to bet $20,000 in the casino to take full advantage. You’ll also get $50 in casino credit regardless of your deposit size.
Didn’t find the answer you were looking for above? Here are some other common questions about the future of online gambling in Connecticut.
Connecticut’s tribes got the right to offer online casinos in exchange for allowing the state lottery to participate in sports betting. Gov. Ned Lamont wanted to legalize sports betting in the state, but wanted to get the lottery in on it. The tribes felt that sports betting qualifies as a form of casino gaming, and that they should have exclusivity over it.
Gov. Lamont was initially resistant to the idea of online casinos and tried to offer the tribes a third retail casino instead. However, there were legal problems with this idea and for a time, the effort was gridlocked.
COVID-19 changed things. When the casinos shut down, state gaming revenue dropped to near zero. In states that had legal iGaming, however, online casinos picked up much of the slack. That was enough to convince Gov. Lamont of the value of having an online option. He and the tribes reached and agreement on how things would work, and the process went smoothly from there.
All gambling in the state is regulated by the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection’s Gaming Division.
The state’s two tribes – the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan – have exclusive rights to casino gaming. The Mashantucket Pequot are partnered with DraftKings, while the Mohegan tribe operates under its own brand, with FanDuel providing the technology.
Like most states, the legal gambling age in Connecticut is 21. This applies to both retail and online gambling.
As with other states, the rule for playing casino games online in CT is that you do not have to be a state resident, but you must be physically located within the state’s borders to play. Geolocation technology built into the apps guarantees this.
Usual exclusions apply. For instance, you can’t play at an online casino if you work there, or if you’ve been banned from the associated land-based casino. Players concerned with their gambling habits can also request self-exclusion.
The state will tax online casino revenue at 18% for the first five years. After this, it will go up to 20% for the next five, at which point the state and tribes can renegotiate.
The same agreement between the Governor and tribes will also allow both retail and online sports betting in CT. Unlike online casino gaming, this is shared with the state lottery.
The lottery is also allowed to sell draw tickets and offer instant Keno online, but not e-Instants, which bear too much resemblance to casino games.
Online poker falls under the same umbrella as online casino in Connecticut, so it is legal as well. As yet, however, no operators have launched a poker room and it’s not clear if they will do so.
It’s hard to say, because there’s no other state with legal online casinos that’s close to Connecticut in size. Michigan, which is about three times larger, generates over $75 million a month, which would lead to an estimate for Connecticut of $25 million monthly, or $300 million annually.
On the other hand, West Virginia, which is half Connecticut’s size, makes less than $4 million monthly. If Connecticut looks more like that than like Michigan, then even doubling to account for population would give an estimate of only $100 million annually.
Then-Gov. Dannel Malloy talked 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.
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.
Gov. Lamont’s reservations about online gambling and the success of sports betting in other states meant the latter began to take precedence. However, the tribes were adamant about getting a new retail casino out of the deal, and this got MGM Resorts International involved. That company feared cross-border competition for its property in Springfield, Mass., and felt that any new Connecticut casino not on tribal land should be open for bidding, not awarded directly to the tribes.
MGM initiated a federal legal battle that more or less killed the effort.
All the problems of 2019 continued into 2020, but an added twist got thrown in, due to the arrival of COVID-19.
The pandemic derailed the legislative session, and therefore any chances of a sports betting or iGaming bill getting passed that year. The tribes petitioned the governor for temporary authorization to conduct iGaming while their retail properties were shut down, but he rebuffed that request.
The silver lining in all this is that the pandemic changed minds on both sides of the table. Getting a new retail casino no longer seemed like such a priority for the tribes. Dropping that requirement took MGM’s lawsuit out of the equation. Furthermore, the loss of gambling revenue during the shutdown opened Gov. Lamont’s eyes to the value of iGaming.
That set the stage for the current 2021 effort, which has much better chances of success than previous ones.
In January, a skeleton bill, SB 146, appeared in the legislature. It mentioned both online casino and sports betting but was light on other detail, as the Governor’s office was negotiating directly with the tribes.
By Mar. 4, the Mohegan Tribe had agreed to terms with Gov. Lamont. The Mashantucket Pequot were still holding out for a more favorable tax rate, however. It took two more weeks for them to setting on a deal. The Governor had proposed 20%, while the Mashantucket Pequot wanted 18%. The compromise they reached was that the latter rate would apply for the first five years, after which it would go up to the original 20%.
A new, more detailed bill, SB 570, appeared in April. Ultimately, however, it would be a similar House bill, HB 6451 that would be signed into law. This happened on May 27.
The final procedural details were for the Dept. of Consumer Protection to approve rules for iGaming and sports betting, and for the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs to ratify the compacts. The former happened uneventfully on Aug. 31. The latter took longer and was cause for concern, because the federal government has not traditionally been a friend of online gambling. Ultimately, however, the new compacts received approval on Sep. 9.
Testing and licensing was less complicated than in other states due to their being only two operators to certify. Launch was somewhat delayed by a slip-up on the federal end of things.
There’s a legally mandated delay between the publication of new compacts and the time they come into effect. The Federal Register waited 12 days longer to publish the Mashantucket Pequot compact than that of the Mohegan, with the result that only the latter tribe would have been able to launch on Oct. 7 as intended. To keep things fair, the state pushed back the launch date until both were able to go live.
Ultimately, that happened without further difficulty on Oct. 19.
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 10 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% 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 launched a Unibet PA online casino, as well.