Connecticut Governor Includes Sports Betting And Online Casino In Budget

Posted By Matthew Kredell on February 11, 2021

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont is serious about expanding gambling to include sports betting and online casino gaming.

Lamont included revenue from expanded gaming in his biennial budget Wednesday.

He also introduced legislation authorizing him to amend agreements with the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes to allow for the activities.

Previous reports indicated there were ongoing negotiations between the tribes and the governor’s office. However, this is the first indication that an agreement may be imminent.

What’s in the Connecticut governor’s proposal

The legislation details the gambling expansions Lamont wants to amend into the tribal agreements. While none of them is a surprise, they confirm what’s being discussed in negotiations.

  • Sports wagering, e-sports and daily fantasy contests both on and off tribal lands
  • Online casino gaming
  • Online operation of keno

It’s unclear whether the governor plans to fill out the bill with implementation language or leave that for the tribal agreements. In an email with PlayCT, Sen. Cathy Osten called the bill “a placeholder with very little specifics.”

Osten represents the district that includes the tribal casinos. She introduced S 146 on behalf of the Connecticut tribes. That bill includes the key elements highlighted by governor and outlines the implementation language favored by the tribes.

CT budget includes sports betting and iGaming revenue

Under expanding the economy, the Connecticut budget has the following about sports betting and online casino gaming:

“The Governor firmly believes that we must recognize the evolving nature of various markets and respond accordingly to ensure our state’s competitiveness while providing opportunities to our citizens. In addition, our state has had a long and fruitful partnership with the two tribal nations in our state and seeks to build on that partnership through the introduction of sports gaming and on-line casino gaming. Connecticut should not leave these opportunities for other states to benefit from our inaction. Our neighbors are enacting laws to allow this and we need to keep pace to modernize our gaming industry.”

The two-year budget does not include revenue from sports betting and internet gaming in 2022. For the 2023 fiscal year, it counts $47.3 million from the activities. But Osten believes the state will do better.

“I don’t believe that accounts for all the revenue we will receive,” Osten said.

How close are governor and tribes to an agreement?

At the very least, the budget inclusion seems to indicate that negotiations with the tribes are going well. Spokesmen for the tribes confirmed the optimism in emails to The Day, a newspaper serving Eastern Connecticut.

Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot, told the paper:

“The bill released today by the governor outlines at a high level all of the key initiatives on the table as the teams continue to work through the details. I believe the governor’s efforts today reinforce his commitment to modernizing Connecticut’s gaming economy and creating a significant new revenue stream to the benefit of all of our great citizens.”

Chuck Bunnell, Mohegan’s chief of staff, added that the tribal leaders recently have been communicating with the governor’s office daily as talks heat up.

What’s next for Connecticut gambling expansion

The governor’s proposal was referred to the Joint Committee on Safety and Security, where it will join Osten’s legislation and three more Connecticut gambling expansion bills.

The committee held an informational hearing on the future of gambling in the state last month. At the hearing, Sportech and the Connecticut Lottery Corporation asked to participate in sports betting. Neither the budget nor the legislation from the governor mention them.

Committee chair Maria Horn told PlayCT to expect another hearing on specific legislation later this month. The governor’s bill could get further discussion then.

Photo by AP / Chris Ehrmann
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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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