WESTBROOK — The owner of Dead Eye Rosie’s said he is still working towards adding sports betting kiosks at the Boston Post Road restaurant, but said the hurdles to obtaining a state license have him questioning whether it’s worth the effort.
Dead Eye Rosie’s owner Walter Bartkiewcz told CT Examiner that he withdrew his application to install 12 sports betting terminals from the Westbrook Zoning Commission because he was told by state officials that he didn’t need zoning approval — though a local zoning official said he hasn’t been told the project is exempt from zoning.
Bartkiewcz said that, for now, he is still seeking a license from Connecticut to operate the machines – but he said the state process is caught up in a dispute over how far his restaurant is from the reservation of the Mohegan Tribe.
His proposal drew a crowd of residents to a Zoning Commission hearing in March to oppose sports betting in Westbrook. That hearing came just a few months after the commission approved a marijuana retail business in the face of vocal opposition from residents.
The commission continued the public hearing to its meeting on April 24, when it was supposed to hear the results of a legal review over whether the betting kiosks fit the definition of an “arcade game” in Westbrook’s zoning regulations.
But Bartkiewcz withdrew the application, telling CT Examiner that state officials said he didn’t need local zoning approval.
Steve Hnatuk, Westbrook’s zoning enforcement officer, told CT Examiner that he’s not aware of sports betting being exempt from local zoning. He said he told Bartkiewcz that he will need to provide evidence that he is exempt from zoning if he decides to move forward with the gambling terminals.
Bartkiewcz said he’s not sure if he is going to keep pursuing the sports betting because his application for a state license is being held up by a dispute over how far Dead Eye Rosie’s is from the Mohegan reservation. State law doesn’t allow any sports betting retail licenses for businesses located within 25 miles of another sports betting location, or the reservation of either the Mohegan Tribe or Mashantucket Pequot Tribe.
“I am working through that right now,” Bartkiewcz said. “It could take a month, or it could take two years, I’m being told.”
He said when he initially applied for the state permit, he listed the distance from the Mohegan reservation in the road miles it would take to travel from one to the other, but the law requires the restaurant to be 25 miles away in a straight line. He said he believes the restaurant is still 25.12 miles away, but he is waiting on an answer from the state.
“It’s just been one thing after another because at the state, you never talk to the same person twice,” Bartkiewcz said.
But he said that he’s starting to question whether the machines are worth the effort, since his customers could place the same bets on their phone that they would be able to place on the machines.
“You can sit at the bar with your friends, take out your telephone and place a bet without using the machines inside the premises,” Bartkiewcz said. “So why would you want to get up if you could sit at the bar, use a telephone, it doesn’t cost you anything, and just do it? Why would you walk over to the machine, where I get a percentage of everything that goes through the machine? So I might have jumped the gun on this.”
Bartkiewcz said he isn’t sure at this point whether he is going to go through with his plan, or whether he’ll just forget it and advertise that people can bet at the bar on their phones to draw in more business. But he said he’ll decide soon.