Deal With Gov. Ned Lamont Sets Up CT Tribes To Potentially Offer Legal Sports Betting

Written By Martin Harris on March 3, 2021

The state of Connecticut took a considerable step forward this week in regard to introducing both sports betting and online gaming.

On Tuesday, Gov. Ned Lamont and the Mohegan Tribe announced they had reached an agreement designed to “modernize gaming options available to state residents.”

The agreement paints a picture of how legal sports wagering and online gaming will come to Connecticut. That said, more work needs to be done before either will launch in the state.

Agreement outlines tax revenue, CT Lottery participation

The agreement describes how the Mohegan Tribe will be able to offer online gaming and sports wagering. It also outlines how the Connecticut Lottery will also be able to participate in legalized sports betting.

The changes will enable Connecticut to compete with neighboring states while generating “tens of millions of dollars in new revenue or the state,” according to Lamont’s office.

The agreement covers several components, including:

  • a 20% tax revenue on online gaming
  • a 13.75% tax revenue on sports betting
  • the Connecticut Lottery operating up to 15 retail sports betting locations, including in Hartford and Bridgeport, plus one online skin
  • license agreements to last 10 years with a five-year extension option
  • the CT Lottery sub-licensing some of those locations to the state-licensed pari-mutuel operator

The latter arrangement would allow the CT Lottery to sub-license operations to off-track betting operator Sportech. That said, Sportech would not itself be an operator or have its own online skin.

In a statement, Lamont described the “months of hard work and dedication to getting a deal.” The governor praised the Mohegan Tribe for its efforts helping provide “a positive path forward that is beneficial for both their tribe and the State of Connecticut.”

Mohegan Tribe Chairman James Gessner similarly spoke highly both of the agreement and the negotiations that produced it. Gessner emphasized how the deal will help Connecticut grow its economy, adding how “we look forward to continued work with the General Assembly as this process continues.”

Lawmakers’ approval needed to amend tribal-state compacts

There’s another important piece of the puzzle when it comes to sports betting and online gaming in Connecticut.

Lamont has been negotiating with leaders of both the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes in recent months with an eye toward amending tribal-state compacts with each. While the governor can direct such negotiations, the state’s legislature must also approve amended compacts.

That means the state General Assembly and Senate will have to be involved going forward before legal sports betting and online gambling can come to Connecticut.

On Tuesday, Lamont filed legislation asking for authority to amend the compacts to add sports betting and online gambling. The proposal was heard by the General Assembly’s Joint Public Safety and Security Committee.

Agreement extends beyond just Mohegan Tribe

While Tuesday’s announcement mentioned only the Mohegan tribe, the bill filed by Lamont covers gaming agreements with both CT tribes.

The Mohegan Tribe operates the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, while the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe runs the Foxwoods Casino in nearby Ledyard. Both properties are in the southeastern part of the state.

The Mashantucket Tribe might have been conspicuously missing from the recent announcement. However, they remain an integral part of the equation going forward as well.

Legal Sports Report reported on Tuesday that Mashantucket Pequot Chairman Rodney Butler underscored both tribes’ involvement in the negotiations and the agreement.

“This is a three-party deal and it takes all three parties for it to move forward,” Butler said, referring to the two tribes and the state.

What about the Mashantucket Tribe?

According to Butler, the Mashantuckets and the state still had one “last point” to negotiate. Without clarifying, Butler noted its importance from the tribe’s point of view.

“For the state, it’s insignificant. It’s a revenue question which is less than a rounding error for the state,” said Butler, adding the revenue amount in question totals about $1 million. “But to my nation it means sustainability.”

Even so, Butler spoke enthusiastically both about the agreement and Lamont’s participation in the negotiations.

“The citizens of Connecticut will be pleased, [and] we’ll all be pleased in the end.”

Observers believe it will take most of the year to sort through all particulars. As a result, sports betting and online gaming might not go live until early 2022.

Photo by AP / Jessica Hill
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