Once online poker is up and running, Connecticut residents could play a hand with people in New Jersey. At least that’s the hope of one Connecticut tribe.
Chairman Rodney Butler told PlayCT that the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation “absolutely” plans to offer online poker in the future, and wants to do so through a multi-state agreement.
“That’s not my area of expertise, but I at least know enough that liquidity matters,” Butler said. “We only have 3.5 million people in the state of Connecticut, and how many of those are going to play poker online? So we’re going to need to have those agreements with either other states or other tribes.”
New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware currently share poker networks through the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement. Other states with legal online poker include Pennsylvania, Michigan, and West Virginia.
“I think we’ll figure it out because it benefits the state as much as it benefits us, and other states have done it,” Butler said. “I think it will happen.”
Joining multi-state agreement for online poker
Butler indicated that the tribe previously considered the possibility of pooling players with other states.
“We’ve looked at that pre-legalization, and now that we’re moving into launch we’re actually taking a fresh look at that and seeing how we can pull that off,” he said.
The compacts between the tribes and the state, awaiting federal approval, don’t mention the possibility of sharing liquidity between states. Connecticut tribes would need approval from the Department of Consumer Protections and for Gov. Ned Lamont to enter into the multi-state agreement.
“I think they’d be open to it based on our conversations and where they want to go with this industry,” Butler said. “They’re going to get tax revenue off it, and at the end of the day, that is what this is about for them. From the governor’s perspective, the fact that he’s got great relationships with the governors in Delaware and New Jersey and sees those multi-state agreements already happening, I think he’ll be more inclined to do it.”
Before worrying about any multistate agreement, the Mashantucket Pequot need to find an online poker operator. The tribe operates one of the biggest poker rooms in the nation at Foxwoods Casino Resort, so it makes sense that it wants to take part in online poker.
The Mohegan Tribe partners with PokerStars in New Jersey, though no agreement has been announced for Connecticut.
Butler excited for sports betting and online gaming
Online poker clearly is taking a backseat to preparing for the launch of sports betting and online casinos, expected this fall.
“It still amazes me every single time I say it, that we’re only one of seven states that have iGaming,” Butler said. “And the suggestion is that states aren’t going to be quick to adopt it moving forward.”
The Mashantucket Pequot partnered with DraftKings, which doesn’t operate online poker rooms.
In a stopover in Michigan on the way to Las Vegas for the National Indian Gaming Association convention, Butler said he downloaded the DraftKings Sportsbook app and thought it looked good.
“I had my comments for (DraftKings CEO) Jason (Robins) to let him know my feedback,” Butler said. “This really is a partnership, not just an affiliate agreement to come in and run our app. Jason Robins when he went to college in Massachusetts used to visit Foxwoods and play poker. So it was almost like he was coming home.”
Butler doesn’t buy into online cannibalization claims
Butler responded to a report from Deutsche Bank that iGaming may be stunting brick-and-mortar casino recovery in Pennsylvania.
He’s not concerned about that prospect in Connecticut.
“There’s been some suggestion in New Jersey and Pennsylvania the last couple months that there may be some cannibalization. I think that’s a blip. I’m not ready to accept that. I think there’s potential that it can be cannibalizing, but if overall the pie is growing then is it really cannibalization? Internet gaming is growing at such a tremendous clip in both states.”
Butler also noted that, with two iGaming platforms, Connecticut won’t have the hypercompetitive environment and endless promotions of other states.