Connecticut Falling Further Behind Neighboring States in Sports Betting
Legal sports betting starts this week in Rhode Island, and it appears that Connecticut is falling even farther behind when it comes to taking advantage of the gambling revenue that other states are raking in now. Connecticut lawmakers haven’t made any moves to legalize the activity and have even pushed back discussions to 2019.
Legal Sports Betting in Rhode Island
Sports gambling started in Rhode Island on Monday at the Twin River Casino in Lincoln. A second casino will begin offering sports betting starting in December in Tiverton. After that, Rhode Island may move to make mobile sports gambling available across the state. RI’s Senate president says he wants to deal with that in January.
Representative Joe Verrengia (Dem-West Harford) co-chairs the committee that oversees gambling. On Wednesday he commented on sports betting both online and in a casino:
“If somebody wants a Bridgeport casino, the only way they could vote for a sports betting bill is if they get a casino. It’s called the political process, and it has everything to do with leverage. Those are the challenges. There’s a lot of money at stake. There’s no question.”
Regarding online sports gambling, he made the following comments:
“Without question, any sports betting would have to include a mobile platform. That’s where the money is. That’s the reality. When the governor was negotiating with the tribes, that’s where it fell short. The tribes claim they have exclusivity on sports betting.”
One major issue that will determine if Connecticut will approve sports betting is the opinions of new legislators in the Senate and House. One such legislator, State Representative Maria Horn (Dem-Litchfield County), said she’s open to the idea:
“I do not have strong feelings on sports betting, other than that the state is making money off another habit. On the other hand, sports betting is going on in every bar in this state. It’s already a thing.”
Tribal Casinos in Connecticut
The Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes operate two casinos in Connecticut. They’ve been working with Governor Malloy on sports betting. Rep. Verrengia says that the tribes don’t have exclusive rights since the Supreme Court overturned the 26-year-old Professional and Amateur Sports Betting Act (PASPA). Connecticut’s Attorney General George Jepson agrees.
The tribes have exclusive rights for slot machines via two compacts with the state. In return, they give the state 25 percent of the profits. Some legislators are worried that if the state goes ahead with allowing legal sports betting outside of tribal casinos, the state could lose hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue from the tribes’ slots, and negatively affect the compacts.
Legal Sports Betting Across the United States
Eight states now allow sports betting: Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Rhode Island, New Mexico, and Nevada. Aside from Nevada, sports betting was illegal up until May of this year when the Supreme Court overturned the federal ban, leaving it up to individual states to legislate the activity.
Potential Revenue for Connecticut
Governor-Elect Ned Lamont is a supporter of legal sports betting and says it would bring in some much-needed revenue in the state. He predicts Connecticut could see $30 to $50 million in yearly revenue from sports gambling. The legislature’s nonpartisan fiscal office made a projection of $20 million in annual revenue.
Right now, this potential revenue is being enjoyed by nearby states like Rhode Island and New Jersey. Proponents of legalized sports betting are feeling the anxiousness of losing out on tens of millions of dollars each year. 2019 could be a significant year for Connecticut and sports betting.
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