Connecticut has long been known as a favorite destination for poker players thanks to the large and popular rooms in Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun.
The state is also swiftly moving toward adding legal sports betting and online gambling. Included in that latter category is online poker.
Legislation passed and was signed by Gov. Ned Lamont in May 2021, authorizing all three verticals to launch in Connecticut. By September, the federal government approved the amended tribal compacts. Stakeholders have loosely targed an October 2021 launch of online gambling. Still, regulators need to approve applications of operators first. Then, legal real-money online poker can go live in the state.
Until then, there are other options for players in Connecticut, including popular “sweepstakes” sites like Global Poker that use virtual currency.
Here’s an overview of online poker in Connecticut, including a discussion of the current “brick-and-mortar” poker options, the legal status of online poker in the state, those sweepstakes sites and how they work, and a brief history of poker in the state.
As noted, real-money online poker is not an option in Connecticut at present. But that prohibition won’t last much longer.
In May 2021, Connecticut lawmakers advanced legislation to introduce both online sportsbooks in CT as well as “online casino gaming.” By definition, that vertical includes online casinos in Connecticut as well as poker, live dealer and other peer-to-peer games.
Under the bill signed by Lamont, each of the state’s two tribes and the Connecticut Lottery would be authorized to offer online gambling. Compacts agreed upon by the state’s tribes and Lamont later received approval from the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs. Still, regulators need to review and issue licenses to operators before online gaming platforms can go live in Connecticut.
Which online poker operators open up shop in the state remains a mystery, however. Of course, the likes of PokerStars, BetMGM, and WSOP.com could expand into Connecticut.
With about 3.6 million residents, the state would not represent a large population compared to other states in which legal online poker rooms operate. In most cases, these online poker sites are “ring-fenced,” meaning players can only play against opponents within the state. That would mean far smaller potential player pools in Connecticut versus more populous states like Pennsylvania (13 million), Michigan (10.1 million), and New Jersey (9.3 million).
Despite not knowing which platforms will launch in Connecticut, the good news is that online poker is on the way.
With the federal government approving renegotiated tribal gaming compacts, stakeholders in Connecticut anticipate going live by October 2021.
After that, and assuming the federal government approves of the agreement, it’s a matter of operator partnerships and application approvals by state regulators.
We’re still in wait-and-see mode for the time being. At the very least, real-money online poker in Connecticut should launch by the end of 2021.
As written, the bill legalizing online poker in Connecticut authorizes each of the two gaming tribes to roll out one skin apiece for online poker.
Simple math, then, will tell you that Connecticut could feature two online poker platforms. Which operators set up shop in the state, however, is up for speculation.
In jurisdictions that have given the green light for real-money online poker, three sites have emerged as industry leaders: PokerStars, BetMGM, and WSOP. PokerStars and BetMGM each operate in nearby New Jersey and Pennsylvania, giving each platform an inside track to set up a northeast bloc of real-money poker. And, of course, there’s WSOP, which offers interstate online poker in New Jersey, Nevada, Delaware, and Pennsylvania.
Currently, the Mashantucket Pequot tribe, operator of Foxwoods Resort Casino, already has a deal in place with DraftKings. Obviously, the spotlight of this agreement shines on DraftKings’ daily fantasy sports and sports betting platforms. That said, the operator also has a relatively successful online casino and has rumored to be interested in an online poker offering. Perhaps that is the skin the Mashantucket Pequot use in that regard.
As for the Mohegan Tribe, which runs Mohegan Sun, it aligned with online gaming provider Kindred in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey. While the Mohegan Tribe has not leveraged that partnership to launch online poker in either jurisdiction, Kindred does boast the Unibet Poker brand.
The bill passed by Connecticut lawmakers includes no provision that explicitly allows for the state to join interstate online poker. That language would allow players in Connecticut to play at digital tables that include players from Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, and later, Michigan.
That said, there is still the possibility that Connecticut opts into the multistate poker compact. After all, there is no language in the bill prohibiting such an action.
In any case, if this is an area of interest, lawmakers would need to introduce explicit language or a specific bill that would authorize the interstate option.
Both Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun opened in the 1990s, and they remain the second- and third-largest casinos in the United States. Both properties feature large poker rooms, making them favorite destinations of poker players not just from the northeast but also from all over the country.
Operated by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, Foxwoods Resort Casino is located on the tribe’s reservation in Ledyard. In fact, Foxwoods is not just one casino, but six distinct casinos all interconnected and operating as one.
The property first opened as a high-stakes bingo hall in 1986. In 1992, table games were added, followed by slots a year later.
The Foxwoods poker room first opened in early 1992 and was significantly expanded by 1995. At its peak, the poker room was easily the largest on the entire east coast, featuring more than 100 tables plus another upstairs room with 50 more tables for tournaments. Over the years the World Series of Poker Circuit and the World Poker Tour both frequently staged events at Foxwoods.
Games offered at the Foxwoods poker room include:
Like all poker rooms and casinos, Foxwoods scaled back its poker operations during 2020 due to the pandemic. At present, the poker room at Foxwoods has 20 cash game tables and the room is not running tournaments. However, the poker room will likely expand again soon, with tournaments added again as well.
Located about 10 miles from Foxwoods in Uncasville, Mohegan Sun is a similarly large complex with a huge variety of games among its attractions. The Mohegan Tribe opened the casino in October 1996 and featured live poker from the start.
During the poker “boom” years of the mid-2000s and afterward, the Mohegan Sun poker room frequently featured 42 tables with more added for tournaments and other large events. The casino has hosted various tournament series as well, including the North American Poker Tour, the Ante Up Poker Tour, the DeepStacks Poker Tour and the Moneymaker PokerStars Players Championship.
Like Foxwoods, the Mohegan Sun poker room spreads a variety of games, including:
Right now, the Mohegan Sun poker room features 16 tables with only cash games offered and no tournaments running. That said, the Mohegan Sun poker room should be expanding again soon as live poker returns post-pandemic.
As is the case in most states, poker has only been legal in Connecticut for a relatively short time and only in certain locations. Currently, only the state’s two tribal casinos, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, can offer legal real-money poker.
Both casinos opened in the 1990s, and over the decades since, their poker rooms have been known as the biggest and most popular on the east coast.
At one time, Foxwoods boasted more than 100 tables in its poker room, making it one of the largest in the entire country.
After the World Poker Tour first launched in 2002, Foxwoods was a significant stop through the WPT’s first 10 seasons. From 2002 to 2011, Foxwoods hosted the $10,000 buy-in WPT World Poker Finals on an annual basis. The likes of Hoyt Corkins, Nick Schulman, and Jonathan Little were among the famous players who claimed titles and seven-figure prizes in the event. The tournament peaked in size in 2005 when the prize pool was an enormous $7.85 million.
Mohegan Sun has also hosted large poker series and tournaments over the years. At its peak, the casino’s poker room often boasted over 40 tables, with more added for especially large events.
The largest tournaments ever hosted at Mohegan Sun occurred during North American Poker Tour stops in 2010 and 2011. The two Main Events, in particular, featured especially large prize pools, with the largest of $3.26 million coming in 2010. As it happened, the all-time winningest woman in poker history, Vanessa Selbst, won both of the NAPT Main Events at the Mohegan.
There are online poker sites that employ a sweepstakes model using virtual currency instead of cash. By doing so, these sites are able to operate legally in most US states, including Connecticut. The most popular example of such a site is Global Poker.
Global Poker uses two virtual currencies, actually: Gold Coins and Sweeps Coins. Players can purchase Gold Coins and use them to play “cash” games and tournaments in which they can win more Gold Coins. However, Gold Coins have no actual cash value.
When purchasing Gold Coins, as a bonus, players also receive Sweeps Coins. They can accumulate Sweeps Coins in other ways as well, such as giveaways or even by writing Global Poker and asking for them. These Sweeps Coins can similarly be used to enter “cash” games and tournaments in which players can win more Sweeps Coins.
Once players have collected a minimum amount of Sweeps Coins, they are eligible to convert them to US dollars and then withdraw as cash.
Creating an account at Global Poker is easy. In order to register, players need only provide a few personal details, including:
Later, when converting Sweeps Coins into cash and withdrawing, players will need to provide more information in order to facilitate those transactions.
Players can play no-limit hold’em, fixed-limit hold’em, and pot-limit Omaha at Global Poker. The site spreads cash games, sit-n-go’s, and multi-table tournaments.
The site also frequently runs popular tournament series that attract big fields and feature large prize pools. Since the site accepts players from almost every state, the player pools are much larger than those found in individual states with real-money legal poker.