Featured in this article:
- Connecticut Governor Wants Sports Betting
- Tribes Behind Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Want A Piece of the Pie
- Both Sides Have Incentives To Reach a Deal
After the Supreme Court opened the floodgates to legalized sports wagering in 2018, many expected Connecticut to quickly allow sports betting. Connecticut had been an early adopter of tribal gaming, with Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun established as resort-style casinos by the mid 1990s.
Years before New York and decades prior to Massachusetts getting in the casino industry, Connecticut was the hub for New England gaming—so what’s preventing Connecticut from introducing betting?
Governor and Tribes Disagree on Casino Games
In the 1990s, Connecticut attempted to avoid lawsuits between the government and the state’s Native American population over gambling. While other states continue to fight against tribal casino expansion, Connecticut cut a deal. Two tribes – the Mashantucket Pequots and the Mohegans – received an exclusive license to operate “casino games.” In return, the state would receive 25% of all revenue from slot machines.
The two tribes and the state disagree whether sports betting is a “casino game.” Under the current law, the tribes would have a monopoly on offering betting in the state. However, the governor and his aides believe that sports betting is not a casino game. Therefore, the state could set up sports betting outside of the compact with the tribes. The middle ground between the two positions is ripe for a deal.
What is next for Connecticut Sports Betting?
Connecticut legislators have proposed sports betting bills in each of the three past years. They have stalled out for various reasons, including the Native American tribes not being on board. Now in 2021, momentum for a deal seems to be growing.
Governor Ned Lamont has projected confidence that he is nearing a compromise. A comprehensive plan could renegotiate the terms of the compact between the state and the two tribes. Amongst other items, the casino project in East Windsor, Connecticut, jointly owned by the tribes, may be resurrected.
Ideally, Gov. Lamont would like to run sports betting through the Connecticut lottery. He maintains that sports betting is not a casino game, and therefore not subject to the tribes’ exclusive license. However, reaching an agreement about sharing revenue or restricting operators may prevent future litigation.
What is Next for Connecticut Sports Betting?
In announcing his budget plans for the state, Gov. Lamont included $50 million in revenue from sports gambling and iGaming by 2022. This ambitious plan would require a full-scale renegotiation of the tribal compacts. With casino (and state) revenues crushed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the time may be right for a deal. The two tribes are seeking additional profit streams to offset in-person gaming losses.
One idea would be to allow the two casinos to partner with established mobile operators to launch online gambling. Mohegan Sun already partners with Unibet for its Pennsylvania sports betting operations. While the Governor would prefer to run online wagering separately from the tribes, this option could be launched sooner.
With a deal between the state and the tribal nations “at the one-yard line,” Connecticut could be on the fast track to gambling in the digital age. If both sides can come up with a way to end the stalemate over whether sports betting is a casino game, residents could be placing bets from their homes soon. There will surely be more bumps along the way to legalization, but Gamble Online will continue to follow the developments in Connecticut.