Connecticut will join the most states by offering sports wagering, after three years of negotiations ended with the State Senate granting legislative approval to an agreement between Connecticut and the tribal nations on Tuesday night.
Under the agreement reached with Gov. Ned Lamont, the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes will be allowed to offer in-person and online sports and fantasy sports betting on their reservations, and to offer online casino games.
The Connecticut Lottery Corporation will be allowed to offer online sports betting, keno and lottery games, and offer in-person sports betting at up to 15 locations, including locations in Hartford and Bridgeport.
Online fantasy sports betting websites like FanDuel and DraftKings will be licensed like other sports betting operations.
The agreement still needs to be approved by the U.S. Department of the Interior, but sports wagering could begin as early as this fall, said State Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague.
Where does the money go?
The tribal nations and the Connecticut Lottery will be taxed on gross revenues from the new forms of legalized gambling — taxes which will be sent to the state’s general revenue fund.
The companies will pay an 18 percent tax on online gaming revenues for the first five years of operation, and then 20 percent in the years after. The companies will also pay a 13.75 percent tax on sports and fantasy sports betting.
Osten, co-chair of the Appropriations Committee, told CT Examiner that legislators expect about $80 million in additional revenue for the state from all new forms of gambling.
That revenue is in addition to the 25 percent of gross slot revenues that the tribal nations contribute to the general fund already.
Osten also said that she is working to restore funding to the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Fund which distributes annual grants to each of Connecticut’s 169 cities and towns. That fund, which currently contains $51 million, would take an additional $80 million to equal its highest level from the past.
Does the agreement address problem gambling?
Most opposition in the legislature was sparked by concerns over the harm that expanded gambling could have on people with a gambling addiction.
State Sen. Tony Hwang, R-Fairfield, said the legislature hasn’t spent enough time addressing the societal costs.
“When you have gambling in an institution or at your casinos, you run out of money or you get into a certain point of social interaction, there is a stop,” Hwang said. “But if you’re at home, you’re in isolation, you’re bored, there’s no stopping. Online gambling is potentially addicting and dangerous.”
The agreement would require each tribal nation to increase contributions to the state’s problem gambling programs by $500,000 and the Connecticut Lottery by $1 million.
The Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services will recieve $43 million to establish prevention, treatment and rehabilitation programs, Osten said.
What does the agreement mean for southeastern Connecticut?
Osten told CT Examiner that the new forms of gambling should increase the number of jobs at the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods casinos – both in her district. She also said that other states have seen foot traffic increase in casinos as online gaming and sports betting have been introduced.
The casinos are major drivers of the economy in the Norwich area, and many people in the region remain out of work after the casinos closed in the COVID-19 pandemic. Osten said the new forms of gambling should spur some of those jobs to come back.
“It should lead to a recall of positions, and both tribes are trying to get people in [to work] right now, they both have incentives going on,” she said.
Osten said the agreement is good for the state and for the two largest minority-owned businesses in the state, which are two of the top 10 largest businesses in the state and two of the most recognized gambling businesses in the world.
“This has checked off all the boxes,” Osten said. “It stabilizes the industry, brings more jobs and more revenue into the State of Connecticut.”
And East Windsor?
The agreement places a 10-year moratorium on any casino being built in East Windsor. For representatives of that area, this was the other point of contention with the bill.
State Sen. Saud Anwar, D-South Windsor, who represents the town, said he is still confused how Lamont reached an agreement with the tribal nations that precluded a casino in East Windsor without consulting the town or lawmakers.
“[The project] was going to create 2,000 jobs – 2,000 jobs for construction and 2,000 jobs in the future in the Capital Region of the state of Connecticut,” Anwar said.
Osten said there are ongoing discussions about directing some gaming revenue to East Windsor to compensate the town for missing out on a casino. Osten said she wants to see gaming revenue going to East Windsor either until a casino is built or the land that was intended for the casino is sold.