Connecticut’s new legislative session is now under way, and state politicians have numerous issues to address. Perhaps, none of these issues are more prominent than the legalization of sports betting, which is putting pressure on Connecticut not to be left behind by their neighboring states like Rhode Island.
Since 1992, when the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act came into effect, sports betting outside of a handful of states, including Nevada, was made illegal. After a long fight, the ban was overturned by the Supreme Court in May 2018.
While some states saw the writing on the wall and legalized sports betting before PASPA was overturned, most did not. Connecticut was one of the states that did not, and now must decide if the state should legalize it, and what that might look like going forward.
The following is a list of some of the major issues that Connecticut’s Legislation must tackle in the beginning of 2019:
Sports betting will become legal in Connecticut only if the legislators want it to, and if they want to put in the work to legalize it.
As of right now, there are lawmakers from both sides of the aisle in the state House and Senate who both oppose and support legal sports betting. So, wrangling the votes to approve sports betting won’t be as simple as in some states.
The leaders of the legislature could not pass a sports betting bill last year and decided not to have a special session this past summer, preferring to wait for the new governor.
There is, however, enough support now to get it passed. On Thursday last week, Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz made the following comments about the issue of sports betting:
“It should be one of the first bills that we do [in 2019]. We’re really falling behind other states. They’re up and running, it’s happening, it’s having a positive impact on their economy. But more importantly for me, it’s having a negative impact on illegal sports betting.”
Once this question is finally answered, state leaders can then move on to hash out what the sports betting framework will look like. And, that starts with the following:
So far, every state that has legalized sports gambling in 2018, has had to address these two questions that go hand in hand. For example, in New Jersey, players can place bets at different racetracks and casinos in addition to mobile apps. In Rhode Island, there are only two casino’s that offer sports gambling.
In Delaware there are dozens of sports lottery locations at liquor stores and convenience stores in addition to the state’s three casinos.
Connecticut legislators will have to think about who will run sports betting operations. Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods will likely apply for an operator’s license, as well as any future casinos. It’s also likely that the CT Lottery and off-track betting sites will be considered.
Aresimowicz prefers to limit sports gambling to off-track sites and casinos to limit widespread access throughout the state, which would take away from the major in-state gambling hubs and the nearby communities.
In November, State Rep. Joe Verrengia, who happens to be the co-chair for the committee that oversees gambling, said that sports betting is going to have to have an online option. He proclaimed that mobile betting is where the real money is.
He’s correct in this thinking because states like New Jersey and Nevada have been enjoying the revenue generated from mobile sports betting. Recently, West Virginia went live with mobile sports betting as casinos were racing to get this implemented due to the revenue potential.
The tribes in Connecticut, which are the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes, run two casinos in the southeastern part of the state. They’ve been working at negotiations with Governor Daniel P. Malloy for the next steps to take with sports gambling.
However, Verrengia says that the tribes don’t have any exclusive rights to sports betting as they have claimed before.
In the compacts with the tribes, Connecticut gives them exclusive rights for slot machines in exchange for the tribes giving the state 25 percent of proceeds from slots. Regardless of what’s in the current compacts, it would be in everyone’s best interest to make sure that the tribes are involved in the sports betting industry.
Whenever a state’s legislature seeks to legalize sports gambling, there has typically been a group of professional sports leagues looking for what they call “integrity fees,” which is money that would be paid to the leagues to cover the costs of enforcement, monitoring, and statistics-keeping.
When discussing integrity fees last spring, some Connecticut legislators were against the idea while some appeared more open to the possibility as discussions moved along.
One of the bills proposed last winter in the state House of Representatives had an integrity fee of one-quarter of one percent of all wagers worked in, but it didn’t pass. Currently, there are no states that have approved of integrity fees.
Connecticut has around 35,000 problem gamblers according to the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling, with a large group of those people under 18. Opponents of any kind of gambling, worry that legalizing sports betting will only make the numbers of problem gamblers grow especially with minors.
The Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling has asked the state to set aside designated funding for prevention and treatment as gambling is expanded. If Connecticut legalizes sports gambling, lawmakers will have to figure out how serious they are about working against any increased risk of problem gambling that would come with new legislation.
According to Courant.com, some of the tools that CCPG has recommended to lawmakers include the following:
These tools appear logical and should be included in some shape or form. However, it remains to be seen how the state legislature wants to approach problem gambling and if they feel the need to allocate any tax revenue toward this issue.
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