Work across party lines to boost economy: Legalize online sports betting

By Peter Nystrom and Ronald McDaniel
| For The Bulletin

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed nearly every aspect of how Connecticut residents go about their daily lives. It’s forced families to simplify and think clearly about what matters most to their future. This should also be true of their elected leaders in local government.

As we enter a new year, it is incumbent upon officials in Southeastern Connecticut to remind ourselves of the key partnerships, valued institutions, and inherent strengths in our part of the state, so that we can foster and grow them in the new year to the benefit of all our residents.

In that spirit, two of our largest employers, the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun Casinos, both took a huge hit due to the pandemic. As we move into a new year and another legislative session, we have the opportunity to help boost our economy and support thousands of local employees. We can do it by working across party lines to remind legislators that not only is it important to act on gaming legislation this year, we must stand with our neighbors – those that have proven time and again that they are committed to our constituents and our local economy.

In his State of the State Address, Gov. Ned Lamont suggested that the possibility of legalizing sports betting would be back on the table in 2021. The General Assembly will be holding public hearings, and we should let our elected officials know that they should pass legislation that gives our state the ability to create and protect jobs and boost our economy through the legalization of online sports gaming, done in a way that preserves the unique relationship Connecticut has with its partners in tribal government.

The idea of online gaming has been a topic of discussion for years, and we can’t think of a better time for the General Assembly to act on the momentum. If there is one thing that 2020 has proven, is that we are capable of doing so much with the technology that is right at our fingertips. Casinos like Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods employ thousands of our neighbors and residents, and we feel it is critical to support any legislation that would immediately help our community members keep those jobs and hopefully add more to help the economy bounce back after the hit our communities have taken from the pandemic.

As a result of the state being forced to shut down and the ongoing impact of the global pandemic, our largest employers have lost significant revenue and therefore they have had to furlough and lay off employees. These are not just figures on a page, these are our constituents that have been impacted. These are men and women that live and pay taxes in our community that are now struggling to provide for their families. Any legislation that would support the passage of online sports gaming must assist these employers so that they can regain their footing. It doesn’t stop there, supporting this type of legislation would give a boost to more than 160 small businesses and vendors that depend on these casinos and employ even more of our residents.

Now is the time to act on the passage of gaming legislation.

But more importantly, now is the time to support our partners, those that employ thousands of our residents, invest in our local businesses, and provide much needed revenue for our municipalities. As our communities continue to pick up the pieces through the pandemic, the idea that there is a light at the end of the tunnel gives us hope and a path forward. And more importantly is the idea that our legislators have the chance to champion our local partners that have proven time and again that they are good employers and good partners to our community.

We are here crossing party lines to do just that.

Peter Nystrom is the mayor of Norwich. Ronald McDaniel is the mayor of Montville.

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