Sports Haven Adding Sports Betting Under New Management? It’s Too Early To Tell

Written By Derek Helling on June 4, 2021
A recent Sports Haven sale to a gaming developer raises several questions, like whether legal sports betting is coming to the site.

The recently announced Sports Haven sale puts the site under new management. What that means for the future of the New Haven gambling center is in many ways still up in the air, at least as far as publicly shared plans go.

Among the questions are whether it will become a retail site for legal Connecticut sports betting in the future. That might be the case. If that happens, though, it might occur in a completely different location.

Details of the Sports Haven sale

The Criterion Group, a real estate developer out of New York City, has purchased Sports Haven in New Haven for $6 million. According to Rich Coppola of WTNH News 8, there is some uncertainty about the location of the gambling site moving forward.

Steve Fontana, New Haven’s deputy director of economic development, says the operations remaining at their current location is possible. Fontana does admit, however, that relocation is possible. That might even entail moving out of New Haven altogether.

“What we’ve done is we try to engage with them to try and come up with potential locations that they could move to,” Fontana says. “Alternatively, it’s possible that they may seek to build a smaller, state-of-the-art facility on the site and be a tenant of the Criterion group. I think they’ve got options and obviously, we want to do everything we can to keep them in New Haven.”

Currently, the operations include a bar and grill. Gambling options include pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing and jai alai. handles the gambling operations on-site. That’s another matter that may not persist given the changing of hands.

As the gambling expansion that CT Gov. Ned Lamont just signed into law plays out, the new owner could be in on it. That decision could have a huge impact on the others relevant for the business’ future.

How legal sports betting could decide Sports Haven’s fate in New Haven

The new CT law allows for up to 15 retail sports betting locations in the state. While the law earmarks two of those licenses for Bridgeport and Hartford, that leaves 13 for the rest of the state’s cities. The previous owner of Sports Haven, Sportech, also has a path to licensure laid out in the law through the CT Lottery.

Sportech still owns 14 other off-track betting sites in CT. In order for Sports Haven to compete with those, it will need to offer wagering on sporting events. Thus, whether the Criterion Group can get licensed in the current site or another location in New Haven will probably determine whether Sports Haven stays or goes.

So, when might these decisions become final? That’s also up in the air right now. For one thing, the US Dept. of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs needs to sign off on the newly negotiated gaming compacts between CT and the two tribal casino operators.

After that, the state will start the process of licensing and regulating, which will probably take months to complete. Depending on how that process plays out, Sports Haven regulars could see drastic changes.

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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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