State Senate passes expansion of gaming in Connecticut, heads to Gov. Lamont’s desk for signature

Politics

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The State Senate passed legislation to expand gaming in Connecticut just before midnight Tuesday. The Senate voted 28 yay, eight nays, and two abstain. It now heads to the governor’s desk.

Governor Ned Lamont applauded the bipartisan vote, saying in a statement released early Wednesday in part, “This is a significant moment for our state as, for the first time, we will allow sports wagering, online casino gaming, and entry of the Connecticut Lottery Corporation into this space. I look forward to signing this legislation into law, which is in the best interests of the State of Connecticut and its citizens.”

The Mohegan Tribe released a statement early Wednesday morning, saying in part, “By modernizing our gaming industry in these ways, Connecticut will keep pace with neighboring states, protecting Connecticut jobs, generating tax revenues to the benefit of both state and local municipal budgets, as well as our tribe’s members. This is not just a regional issue — it will have a statewide impact as Connecticut works to meet critical needs as it recovers from the pandemic. We’re excited for Governor Lamont to sign this bill into law, and we look forward to continued partnership with him and with the General Assembly to continue moving Connecticut’s economy forward.”

Lawmakers in the State House passed the historic legislation last week.

It would allow sports betting and online gaming. These expanded games would be run by the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot Tribal nations and the Connecticut Lottery.

The million-dollar question is, “when will it be legal?”

Even though there are a couple of hurdles, top lawmakers say the timeline “should be September – Labor Day.”

The bill is a result of the direct negotiations between the governor and the two tribal nations. Even after Governor Lamont puts pen to paper in the coming days, the deal must be approved by the U.S. Department of Interior.

RELATED: ‘Deal that’s built to last’: Governor, tribal leaders discuss deal to modernize gaming options in CT

The bill also creates a licensing process for fantasy sports betting. Fandual and DraftKings sites will be allowed to operate in Connecticut. But only after the state creates regulations and issues licenses.

“In our small state of Connecticut, we now have sports gaming and internet gaming around us in other states. And we needed to make sure we were controlling our own destiny as well. And not leaving money on the table, because we had been over the last several years,” said Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D).

Those in the gaming industry say that could mean shutting down fantasy sports in Connecticut until the work is done.

Peter Shoenke, the Government Affairs Director for the Sports and Gaming Association, said members are upset, and he would like lawmakers to acknowledge their error.

“You made a mistake. You didn’t reach out to people who play these games. It’s not just FanDuel and DraftKings, it’s other companies who can’t operate under this setup. There are going to be a lot of angry people in Connecticut because they didn’t think about it,” added Shoenke.

News 8 has learned the State Senate did not make any “fixes” to the language. And the governor’s office is handling the issue.

Once passed, the tribes can run in-person sports betting and fantasy sports on their reservations and online. The Connecticut Lottery will do the same along with online Keno and online lottery games.

The Lottery will also open 15 facilities. In exchange, the bill requires monthly payments from the tribes and the lottery, an estimated $35-million a year. The deal is good for five years and can be extended five more.

Each tribe will have to put half a million dollars into problem gambling programs. The Lottery will have to submit $1-million. A casino in East Windsor is off the table for 10 years.

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