Sports betting isn’t here yet. But the tail end of August represented a major step in that direction for would-be Connecticut bettors.
The General Assembly’s Regulation Review Committee voted to approve emergency regulations that many hope will fast-track sports betting and online gambling.
That said, state officials, tribes and sportsbook operators still have notable hurdles to jump before the industry goes live.
Could sports betting be available by Sept. 9, when the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers face the Dallas Cowboys? Or, at the very least, during the NFL regular season or playoffs? That remains to be seen, with varying degrees of confidence and concern among interested parties.
But one thing is clear: Legalized sports betting is barreling ahead and will soon be available in Connecticut, no matter where it falls on the calendar.
Legislators sign off on regulations
Many in Connecticut have been open about their desire to implement sports betting and online gambling as fast as possible.
At the forefront of those efforts is the money the state stands to make: taxes on nearly a fifth of online casino gaming and just under 14% on sports betting/fantasy sports.
At the outset, the state is set to make $28 million per year, a figure expected to grow in future years.
Those prominent dollar signs, which grow larger with each NFL week available to Connecticut bettors, have driven the sports-betting conversation to the front of state politics.
Passing the regulations was in large part standard procedure for a state legalizing the practice. Even so, Gov. Ned Lamont called the act “a significant step forward for Connecticut and our partners in this new marketplace.”
Lamont has been an adamant supporter of legalized sports betting, regularly citing his goal of being ready to offer the service by the NFL season kickoff.
Others in the sports-betting space believe the first part of the season, but not necessarily the start, is more realistic as a timeline.
“In working collaboratively with the Mohegan Tribe, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, and the Connecticut Lottery Corporation, Connecticut has crafted nation-leading legislation, which will position our state as a leader in this space and will provide an elevated user experience for eligible residents,” added Lamont.
According to the department’s commissioner, Michelle Seagull, the regulations submitted by the Department of Consumer Protection are meant “to create a licensing structure and implement provisions for responsible gaming … for new gaming markets in our state.”
What are the next steps in getting sports betting approved in Connecticut?
The regulations’ approval comes after the Connecticut Lottery Corporation chose Rush Street Interactive to serve as its retail and online sports betting partner.
Competing with Rush Street Interactive will be DraftKings and FanDuel, which have partnered with the state’s Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes, respectively.
The tribes are also awaiting approval from the U.S. Department of Interior of their gambling compacts with the state. This should occur in short order, as the state submitted the compacts in early August.
In addition, the regulations passed Tuesday require additional steps before accepting bets within state limits.
According to information provided to Legal Sports Report, that procedure includes codification within the Secretary of State’s office; licensing of all entities within the sports betting industry; and publication of the updated agreements in the Department of Interior’s Federal Register.
Combining each of those hurdles makes an exact timeline hard to determine and would make reaching the goal of Sept. 9 a notable achievement.
These emergency regulations are temporary. To keep sports betting alive in Connecticut, next year’s legislative session must pass permanent approval.
Regulations lack unanimous support
While many in Connecticut eagerly await sports betting’s launch, the regulatory process to get there hasn’t been without dissent.
The regulations tally was not close but did include four no votes, for a final count of 9-4.
Wide-ranging concerns exist. That includes the dangers of allowing payments from joint bank accounts; an inability to use funding options like PayPal and Venmo; the adequacy of safety mechanisms, including self-exclusion and betting limits; and, most importantly, if the rushing the process was at play.
“This whole rushing to sort of – and I just know this anecdotally – to meet the opening of the football season, you know, hey, land of steady habits. I’d rather walk instead of run. I don’t see a race here. We’re behind other states as it is. I’d rather get it right,” said Sen. John Kissel.
Rep. David Rutigliano also voted against the regulations.
“I think it’s a little transparent that we’re trying to beat the kickoff to the NFL season, which I think is outrageous. We have twisted and turned the state government in all its power to beat a deadline that didn’t need to be beat.”
He added he “didn’t think it was an emergency” warranting a quickened process.
Seagull, meanwhile, said she is “comfortable with the balance here” in terms of the regulations.
She said the regulations are “in line” with other states that have already legalized sports betting. However, Connecticut threaded the needle between being strict and welcoming to prospective customers.