New Bipartisan Bill Would Legalize Sports Betting, Online Casinos In Connecticut

Written By Martin Harris on January 22, 2021 - Last Updated on February 11, 2021

Connecticut has explored legalizing both sports betting and online gambling in the past without producing results.

But 2021 may be different.

A number of lawmakers and other interested parties certainly hope that’s the case following the introduction of a new bipartisan bill seeking to legalize “sports wagering, internet gaming, internet lottery and internet keno.”

Legislation allows tribes to offer sports betting, online wagering

Senate Bill 146 was introduced by 17 lawmakers last week and immediately referred to the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Security.

The bill proposes amending state law in four ways regarding gambling expansion in the Constitution State.

The first change would authorize the state’s two federally recognized tribes to offer sports betting and online casinos upon revision of current state-tribe compacts.

Tribes currently operate the state’s two casinos. The Manshantucket Pequot Tribe operates Foxwoods Casino in Ledyard. Meanwhile, the Mohegan Tribe of Indians operates the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville.

Proposal also authorizes online lottery sales

The second change would allow the Connecticut Lottery Corporation to begin selling lottery and keno tickets online. That, too, would require agreements with the two tribes.

The other two items concern ensuring “reasonable procedures and data security standards” for online gambling and the state receiving revenue once the new types of gambling launch.

Other bill details include:

  • Tribes paying an 8% tax on sports betting revenue and 10% on online casino revenue
  • One online sportsbook skin and one online casino skin per tribe/casino
  • A limit of 24 online lottery drawings per day
  • A 12.5% revenue tax for online keno
  • An effective date of July 1, with regulations adopted by Oct. 1

Bill primary author focused on tribes, less so on bill opponents

For the bill to advance beyond the committee stage, it will obviously require support from the tribes as well as lawmakers. The current legislative session does not adjourn until June 9.

It also remains to be seen whether opponents to online gambling in Connecticut can muster enough support to slow the bill’s advance.

One opponent likely to push back will be Sportech, operator of off-track betting parlors in the state. During a committee hearing last year, Sportech indicated it would sue the state if left out of any online gambling agreement.

That obstacle doesn’t faze the bill’s primary author, Sen. Cathy Osten. As she pointed out to PlayMA last week, the OTBs could find a way to work with the tribes and become vendors themselves for the new types of gambling.

That said, Osten also indicated that all things considered, the tribes will be more central to the discussion going forward.

Osten emphasized how, last year, “OTBs brought a total of $3 million to the state” while the “tribes bring in 10 times that amount in one month.”

Governor support could help move bill forward

Osten said she anticipates the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Security to take up the bill soon.

Gov. Ned Lamont has previously expressed support for sports betting legislation. He has also indicated a desire to enable the tribes to offer online gambling. Osten hopes Lamont’s influence will help facilitate negotiations to move the bill forward more quickly.

Other signs are favorable as well, including the fact that the tribes have already pursued partnerships as they ready themselves for the law’s passage.

The Manshantucket Pequot Tribe has already signed a deal with DraftKings to operate both sports betting and online casino. Meanwhile, the Mohegans landed a similar deal with Kambi for sports betting.

“I think it’s important for us to get this done,” said Osten. “I’m hoping the governor is interested in living up to the compact with two tribal nations and actually forwarding and modernizing gaming in the state of Connecticut. It just makes sense.”

Photo by AP / Jessica Hill
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