Gov. Lamont, Mashantucket Pequot Renew Gaming Compact, Putting Connecticut Closer To Legal Sports Betting

Written By Derek Helling on March 18, 2021

The launch of legal sports betting in Connecticut looks more inevitable than ever.

On Thursday, Gov. Ned Lamont announced he had reached an agreement to renew the state’s gaming compact with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, one of the two groups that operate casinos in Connecticut.

Having already negotiated similar terms with the Mohegan Tribe, Lamont’s role in this endeavor is done. How quickly sportsbooks at tribal casinos and elsewhere around the state come to fruition is now up to other parties.

Details of agreement to bring Connecticut sportsbooks to life

Prior to this news, the outstanding differences between Lamont and the Mashantucket Pequot threatened to hold up legal sports betting in Connecticut. Simply put, a failure to get the Mashantucket on board would have delayed it indefinitely.

With the Mashantucket Pequot now satisfied, Connecticut residents have some idea of what’s likely coming. The compact terms, as far as sports betting goes, look like this:

  • Online skins available for both tribal operators and the Connecticut Lottery
  • Connecticut Lottery gets to run up to 15 retail locations, with immediate plans for Bridgeport and Hartford
  • Tax rate of 13.75% on sports betting revenue

The Mashantucket already has an agreement in place with DraftKings Sportsbook. So, patrons of either the casino or online sportsbook should expect that branding. The Mashantucket Pequot convinced Lamont to tax online casino revenue at a rate of 18% for the first five years. The rate jumps up to 20% in the sixth year.

In return, both tribes agreed not to do any further work toward opening a third casino in East Windsor for the length of the compact. That term is 10 years, with a mutual option to extend for a further five years.

“Connecticut is on [the] cusp of providing a modern, technologically advanced gaming experience for our residents, which will be competitive with our neighboring states,” Lamont said in a press release.

“Our state’s tribal partners have worked with my administration thoughtfully, deliberately, and in a constructive fashion for the past few months, and we have achieved an agreement that is best for Connecticut residents and their respective tribal members. We will work to see it ratified and look forward to doing so through a collaborative effort, to include working with elected leaders in the General Assembly.”

Department of the Interior, CT legislature still have to weigh in

So, when can Connecticut bettors expect the first online or retail sportsbook to go live in the Nutmeg State? Well, it’s still too early to say. Lamont’s word isn’t the final one. As he alluded to, there’s still work to do in order to finalize the terms.

At the state level, both chambers of the General Assembly must agree to the new compact terms. While that seems likely given the broad support for the general concept of gambling expansion, it’s foolhardy to assume a quick approval.

At the same time, the United States Department of the Interior has to approve all gaming compacts held by federally recognized tribes. The outlook on that might be favorable, too. The new head of the DOI is, for the first time in US history, a member of an Indigenous peoples group herself.

What about the Connecticut Lottery’s sportsbooks? That is all still dependent on the final approval of these compacts, even though the tribes won’t operate those books. Thus, the lottery can’t even start serious work toward those projects until the process is complete.

The lottery also gets to expand its online offerings, so it will likely be rooting for fast completion. If that wish comes true, then Connecticuters will enjoy all the perks of having legal sportsbooks in their state soon.

Photo by AP / Jessica Hill
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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