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‘Gamesmanship’ between Governor Lamont, 2 Native American tribes ramps up

Connecticut

CONNECTICUT (WTNH) — Rodney Butler the Chairman of the Mashantucket Pequots kept his poker face Tuesday, despite a contentious meeting with the governor.

The two sides met to discuss which sports betting bill should move forward. It ended with both parties “walking away” from the table.

“Literally to the point of throwing up his [Lamont’s] hands and saying, ‘This is just too hard and we’ll wait another year,'” Butler said.

Governor Ned Lamont, who had been privately trying to make a deal with the state’s two Native American tribes — Mashantucket Pequots and Mohegans, is now backing away.

The deal the tribes want would give them exclusive rights to sports betting, which they say is in the 1990 compact. A new casino in Bridgeport and Connecticut Lottery would get a piece of the action.

“It’s creating millions of dollars of incremental revenue for the state of Connecticut, hundreds of jobs and redistributing the Pequot Fund to the tune of almost double of what’s being distributed today,” Butler said. “If the governor doesn’t feel like that is good for the state, then I don’t know what to tell you.”

Instead, Lamont is betting on a different deal to allow competition. Connecticut Lottery and off-track betting operators like Sportech would be cut into the game.

“I can see things improving, but we are not there yet,” said Sportech’s Ted Taylor.

In a statement, Governor Lamont said in part, “Any such proposal, must [be designed to avoid and withstand endless legal challenges], include multiple, competing mobile platforms off the tribes’ reservations and build upon the existing footprints of all of the state’s existing gaming operators.”

Surrounding states are expanding gaming. If Senate Bill 21, that is being backed by the tribes and many on the Public Safety Committee, passes, towns could also receive upwards of $1 million to cover public safety around new gaming facilities in New Haven, Hartford and Bridgeport.

“Whether we liked that compact or not when the governor signed it, it’s changed the game in Connecticut,” Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim.

The tribal chair also referenced how his Native American ancestors were treated early on in United States history saying, “Collaboration and flexibility are how good legislation is enacted, not a take it or leave it,” Butler said. “My ancestors have experienced that approach. We know the outcome of that and we are not going to let that happen again.”

If the bill becomes law, the tribes said the compact will be broken and they will no longer make payment to the state — to the tune of $255 million in slot revenue.

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