While there still a few tees to cross and is to dot, it looks like Connecticut online and retail sportsbooks should get across the legislative finish line in 2021.
If the proposed tribal compact and associated legislation do end up as state law, it will set up three online sportsbook licenses as well as retail sportsbook licenses divided between Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun, and the Connecticut Lottery.
Here’s a look at where the legislation stands, what Connecticut sports betting could look like, the key sportsbook operators involved, and a rundown of what brands you might see launch online betting apps in the state.
Last updated: June 15, 2021
It calls Bristol home, and it could be looking into legal sports betting.
According to Front Office Sports, ESPN is ready to go “all-in” on legal sports betting as the worldwide leader in sports eyes the potential launch of its own branded sportsbook.
While “discussions are in their early stages,” ESPN has shown it is willing to dive deeper into the sports betting waters.
For example, ESPN has brought on a number of contributors who work within the gambling sphere, allowing the media conglomerate to produce betting-centric shows such as “Daily Wager.” On top of ESPN also entering into agreements with DraftKings and Caesars, it also featured an alternate broadcast of an NBA game that was delivered from a gambling perspective.
Then consider another media giant that has swan-dived into sports betting: FOX Sports, which launched FOX Bet in 2019.
The media giant is obviously headquartered in Connecticut, but laws for CT sports betting wouldn’t allow ESPN to operate its own sportsbook here. That said, ESPN could certainly look at other jurisdictions.
The Connecticut House passed legislation Thursday approving compacts with the state’s tribes to bring sports betting and online casinos.
The Connecticut Lottery is still moving quickly, preparing themselves for the moment sports betting becomes legal in the state.
Gambling in Connecticut is split between two entities: tribal casinos and the Connecticut Lottery. The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation operates Foxwoods Casino, while The Mohegan Tribe operates Mohegan Sun Casino.
The two tribes have exclusivity over casino gambling in the state. Meanwhile, the Connecticut Lottery handles draw games, scratch-offs, and Keno.
That division could change though. The proposed plan for sports betting grants three online sports betting licenses for Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun, and the lottery. The two casinos can also operate retail casinos on property.
Additionally, the tribes can pursue a casino in Bridgeport, but also have to cease developing a casino in East Windsor.
The Lottery also gets licenses to run 15 retail sportsbook locations around the state. While it hasn’t been explicitly stated, it seems like those retail locations will be at the 14 Sportech-owned off-track betting parlors.
The proposed tax rate for sports betting will be 13.75% on revenue.
Here is a look at what needs to happen in order for Connecticut bettors to be able to download and start using an online sports betting app:
It’s a lot to get done, but the hope is it will happen by the end of the year so at least part of the NFL season is available to bet on.
With three online licenses up for grabs, there are only going to be so many players in the state. One of them is already known, as DraftKings and the Mashantucket Pequot announced a partnership in December 2020. Mohegan Sun also has a strategic alliance with Kambi, but that still leaves a couple of brand options for them to choose from. Here’s a look at the three license holders, followed by possible partners for Mohegan and the lottery:
The December deal between the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and Foxwoods described the partnership as “multi-channel” since it includes both sports betting and daily fantasy sports (DFS). What it does not mention is whether online casino or poker is included in the deal.
Given DraftKings Sportsbook is based out of Boston, it is no surprise the company prioritized getting into neighboring Connecticut. Foxwoods has long been a destination for Boston gamblers, so the partnership is a natural fit.
The other major tribal casino, Mohegan Sun, has not formally announced plans for their sports betting brand. The company does have a relationship with platform and odds provider Kambi, whose other partners include Unibet, Rush Street Interactive, and Parx.
Mohegan Sun Pocono in Pennsylvania already works with Unibet, so that is the brand that, at least for now, seems to make the most sense unless Mohegan Sun elects to just create a sportsbook with its own brand.
The lottery is already a good way through the selection process for a sports betting partner. The organization issued a request for proposals (RFP) in April. In the span of 11 days, the lottery received 15 applications.
It is possible the Connecticut Lottery uses the other group in the state currently offering gambling, which is Sportech off-track betting facilities. While it seems likely those OTB parlors will work with the lottery on retail locations, the online sportsbook candidates are probably offering the lottery much more persuasive proposals.
The Lottery stated that it will pick a partner by May 17.
Unibet is a smaller player in the US sports betting space, but it does have a strong presence on the East Coast. Additionally, the sportsbook has a connection to the Mohegan Tribe through Mohegan Sun Pocono Casino in Pennsylvania. Unibet is the sportsbook provider for that property as well as its online casino partner. Given Mohegan’s relationship with Kambi, this smaller brand could be a big player in CT.
One of the two major players in US sports betting, FanDuel has made it a point to be in every state that it possibly can. Connecticut should be no exception. It likely offered the Connecticut Lottery one of the more enticing proposals for partnership.
When it comes to Connecticut, MGM still has a little bad blood with the casino operator.
MGM battled against both the Mashantucket Pequot and the Mohegan over a proposed tribal casino in Bridgeport. The fight went on for many months and got very contentious. While the CT Lottery was not involved in the fight, it does color how MGM is perceived by some people in the state.
However, there is still the lottery’s license, which could be a good landing place for BetMGM.
Another possibility for Mohegan via its Kambi deal is for Mohegan Sun to work with BetRivers. Rivers has casinos in Illinois, New York, and Pennsylvania. The group’s in-house online gambling unit, Rush Street Interactive, developed BetRivers Sportsbook in tandem with Kambi.
BetRivers is more of a regional brand vs a national brand, but given its properties and presence in New York and Pennsylvania, it would make sense that the company would want into Connecticut as well.
With the recently completed acquisition of William Hill, it seems like Caesars is trying to ramp up and compete with the big three brands. That would suggest the company is going to try and get into Connecticut.
However, the company is also in a serious state of flux as it transitions the existing William Hill betting app brand over to something with the Caesars name. Moreover, the company is still trying to tie a fully integrated platform for casino games, online poker, and sports betting together. With so much going on, maybe the company passes on Connecticut sports betting and focuses on getting the casino and poker products in the state instead.
Given its Boston roots, it would make sense that one of the newer sportsbooks, Barstool Sportsbook, would want into Connecticut. Penn National Gaming is Barstool’s parent company. While Penn has casinos and partnerships in many states, Connecticut is not one of them.
Given the divisive attitude behind the brand, it may be a trickier sell for the Connecticut Lottery to partner with a group that, on its best day, is polarizing.