Governor Signs Connecticut Bill Approving Sports Betting And Online Casino

Posted By Matthew Kredell on May 26, 2021 - Last Updated on May 27, 2021

Retail and mobile sports betting, online casino, online poker and iLottery are on their way to the Connecticut, pending federal approval.

The Connecticut Senate voted 28-6 late Tuesday night to approve the massive expansion of gambling.

This follows a 122-21 vote last week from Connecticut House to pass the bill. House bill 6451 empowers the governor to amend gaming compacts with the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes.

“The bill before us represents years of work to both expand gambling in our state to include sports betting and online gambling, but also to modernize our regulatory framework and significantly enhance consumer protections both in terms of legal requirements and financial investment” Said Sen. Cathy Osten, who spoke for the bill on the Senate floor.

Connecticut would join only New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Delaware and West Virginia as states with full online casino.

Gov. Ned Lamont, who negotiated the agreements with tribes, signed the bill Thursday. This begins the federal approval process, with the amended compacts sent to the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the US Department of Interior.

Details of Connecticut gaming compacts

This Connecticut gaming expansion is five years in the making. Lamont reached an agreement with the tribes in March.

The compacts last 10 years with a mutual option to extend for another five years. Here are some of the key details:

  • Authorizes CT online sports betting through one mobile app each for the Mashantucket Pequot, Mohegan and the Connecticut Lottery.
  • Authorizes retail sports betting at Foxwoods Casino, Mohegan Sun, and through the Connecticut Lottery at up to 15 retail locations. A retail location must be located in the cities of Bridgeport and Hartford.
  • The Connecticut Lottery may partner with Sportech, which operates 14 off-track betting parlors in the state, for those retail locations.
  • Revenue share of 13.75% on sports betting revenue.
  • Permits Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan each to have an online casino site.
  • For Connecticut online casino the tribes pay 18% of revenue to the state for the first five years, increasing to 20% in year six.
  • Allows the Connecticut Lottery Corporation to offer online lottery and keno products, including the sale of draw tickets.
  • Excludes single-game betting on in-state college sports.
  • Requires the lottery to contribute $3.3 million and each tribe to contribute $500,000 toward problem gambling programs.

East Windsor could get some compensation

In 2017, lawmakers approved a joint tribal venture to build a casino in East Windsor. But the project faced federal and legal hurdles, including opposition from MGM Resorts.

Lamont was a vocal proponent of ending the project. And he got his wish in the compacts. Both tribes agreed not to do any further work toward opening a third casino in East Windsor for the length of the compacts.

Osten pledged to support East Windsor getting financial concessions for the change.

“I would wish that the East Windsor community would receive dollars out of the gaming revenue. And the parameters I would like to see put on that is that they get money until either a casino is built or the land is sold. … I think, as this was a compact agreement between the state of Connecticut and the tribal nations, that the state of Connecticut has some responsibility to the community of East Windsor.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney backed that pledge. However, as the decision is not up to her, Osten added that she couldn’t make any guarantees.

The Office of Fiscal Analysis projects the bill brings an additional $83 million in revenue for the state to divvy up at market maturity. How to allocate the money is part of ongoing state budget negotiations.

Osten’s words for East Windsor didn’t stop lawmakers representing the area to voice their opposition. Sen. Saud Anwar tried an amendment striking the East Windsor sections from the bill. But it failed.

Senator targets fall start for sports betting, online casino

The Senate stayed until nearly midnight Tuesday to pass the compact bill. This was unusual with no deadlines in play.

It wasn’t the end of the legislative session. Lawmakers could have just addressed the bill the next day.

However, Osten expressed the importance of starting the process on the compact’s approval to get sports betting and online casino launched as quickly as possible. There’s the possibility of getting sports betting going for the beginning of the NFL season in September.

“I’m hoping that the governor signs it tonight and we send it down to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, where it should get a quick review and come back to us so that those people who like sports betting and online gaming will be able to participate as early as this fall.”

Once received, the Bureau of Indian Affairs has 45 days to review the compact. The Bureau took about a month to approve a recent tribal compact in Arizona.

Looney added that sending the compact off for federal approval was a reason to celebrate.

“This really is an important economic development bill,” Looney said. That’s what this is about. It will provide new resources. It will provide ways for Connecticut to maintain its share in this new expanding field of remote gambling.”

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Matthew Kredell

Matthew has covered efforts to legalize and regulate online gambling since 2007. His reporting on the legalization of sports betting began in 2010 with an article for Playboy Magazine on how the NFL was pushing US money overseas by fighting the expansion of regulated sports betting. A USC journalism alum, Matt started his career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News and has written on a variety of topics for Playboy, Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.

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