New Online Gambling Bill Proposed in Connecticut

Connecticut

A proposal to regulate online gambling that includes live and online sports betting has been introduced in Connecticut’s January legislative session.

The bill is a bipartisan effort that aims to produce jobs, additional revenue, and serve as a means to remain competitive with neighboring states in terms of vying for tourism dollars. Proposed Bill No. 17, which has been referred to the Committee on Public Safety and Security, also makes mention of the need to ensure that minors and persons located beyond state boundaries are restricted from participating in placing wagers.

The measure is of the bare bones variety and includes no clauses pertaining to bad actors or compacts with other states. Also missing are any hints of tax rates or license fees that gaming operators would be subjected to.

Tribal Concerns

Lawmakers in the Constitution State were able to make some headway in 2018 with regard to regulated online gambling. Although a bill was never approved, legislators did seriously consider i-gaming regulation at the behest of the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Tribes.

Both tribes operate their own huge casinos – Foxwoods Resorts Casino and Mohegan Sun – and are keen to add sports betting and online gambling to produce more revenue. The nearby state of Rhode Island added sports betting to its land-based casinos recently and Massachusetts may soon do the same.

The Connecticut tribes also joined forces in hopes of operating a casino together in East Windsor. Complicating the issue, however, is the MGM, who would like to front a casino in Bridgeport and has objected to the East Windsor site of the tribes. Add Caesars Entertainment and the Connecticut Lottery to the mix and their desire for a respective piece of the sports betting market and a tug of war has followed.

That war may continue to be played out in the Committee on Public Safety and Security where lawmakers are not on the same page on the direction to go with gambling expansion. One committee leader backs the inclusion of MGM, another is all about the continued relationship with the tribes.

Governor on Board

Connecticut’s new governor, Ned Lamont, is all for gambling expansion, but realizes he’s in a bind with trying to please all the stakeholders involved. He recently told the CT Mirror:

it’s my job to make sure we don’t get mired in the legal mud for the next five years.

MGM has threatened legal action if the East Windsor casino comes to fruition. So it’s all a bit of a mess. The question is, can the proposed bill be passed without the casino expansion details worked out? It’s highly unlikely.

On a brighter note, Gov. Lamont is expected to be much more involved in finding a solution to the gambling expansion issue, as well as passing i-gaming and sports betting legislation, than his predecessor.

While the recent DoJ opinion that found the Wire Act applicable to all forms of online gambling has apparently done plenty to halt progress of internet poker and gambling regulation in some states, that is seemingly not the case in Connecticut. But the Constitution State has its own set of problems that will likely require compromise on the part of lawmakers and stakeholders.