Expanding gaming in CT ‘At the 1-yard line…’

Connecticut

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Will this be the year Connecticut gets into the game? State lawmakers on the Public Safety Committee heard players at the table on why they believe gaming should be expanded in the state and who should run the games.

Sports betting, iLottery, and online gaming all of it on the table. Rodney Butler, Chair of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, said it best, “We’re at the one-yard line. We need to punch through at this point.”

On the virtual information hearing, state lawmakers heard about trends; security for online bets and recent judicial rulings from Rhode Island which say sports betting is a casino game.

Exclusivity is a concern for the state’s two tribal nations. Each claim decades-old gaming compacts with the state include sports betting rights to their organizations.

Chuck Bunnel, Chief Operating Officer of the Mohegan Tribal Nation asked the committee to “Do no harm by bringing someone else in Connecticut that isn’t currently here into a deal that has been beneficial to all of us.”

If lawmakers include private operators like the Lottery or Sportech into any pending sports betting deal, casino operators say they’ll stop giving the state $200 million in slot revenues.

In the meantime, gaming expansion could include adding small retail sites for in-person betting. The Democratic Chair of the Public Safety Committee, State Sen. Dennis Bradley said he wants to have Bridgeport be a mega center for sports betting.”

Rodney Butler, describes it as “Bobby V’s on steriods” referencing the restaurant chain of former professional baseball player Bobby Valentine where customers can place bets on off-track betting.

“That would work well for Bridgeport, Stamford, or Hartford at the XL Center,” added Butler.

The state quasi-public Lottery pitched hard. Claiming they’ll send more money to the state if allowed to have a piece of the sports betting pie. Their executives say this year alone they will send $398 million in revenues to the state.

Compared to the $200 million in slot revenues from the casinos. The Lottery is also speaking with vendors who can handle online sports betting. They want to target 20 to 30-year-olds who live on mobile devices.

Rob Simmelkjaer the Chair of CT Lottery says, “The state will make more money from sports betting if it’s legalized with the Connecticut Lottery being involved.”

Despite having exclusivity to off-track betting Sportech says the Tribes having their own exclusivity in sports gaming would be a farce.

Ted Taylor, President of Sportech testified to lawmakers, “We don’t want to hand over something we bought and paid for years ago… any more than the tribal casinos’ll do.”

His legal counsel Rich Pingel described the tribe’s position as a “broad overreach by the tribes to claim they have exclusive rights off the reservation” and he hoped the notion would be rejected by the committee.

Sportech is selling Sports Haven in New Haven and is looking for a new location. Meantime, the governor and the Tribal teams are in negotiations.

“We are talking and having good constructive conversations with both Foxwoods and the Mohegans. Let’s see where it goes from there,” remarked Governor Ned Lamont.

Any deal that is made comes with a cautionary warning. The Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling says 100,000 families are affected by those who overextend themselves.

Diana Goode, Executive Director at the CT Council on Problem Gambling said, “It’s in all of our interest to make sure there are treatments and preventions and safeguards in place.”

She would like at least one percent of any revenue to go to the treatment fund and ten percent of that to go to prevention. If Governor Lamont gets an agreement to amend the tribal compacts it still has to go before the legislature.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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