With DE, NJ and RI Legalizing Sports Betting, the Pressure is on Connecticut
One by one, the states in the Northeast are passing laws to legalize sports betting and rolling out their frameworks. Delaware and New Jersey were the two first states to join Nevada in the full legalization of sports betting following the overturning of PASPA by the Supreme Court. Last week, Rhode Island just approved the legalization of sports betting and plan on rolling it out by October 1st. Even Pennsylvania has legalized sports betting, albeit, none of the casinos are taking advantage of this due to the state’s high tax rate and licensing fees. With that said, Connecticut is starting to feel the pressure of legalizing sports betting from residents, neighboring states and policymakers. Unfortunately, despite the proactive steps they’ve taken in the past to prepare for sports betting, they remain at a stand-still with no hope in sight.
How Connecticut Got to a Stand-Still
In the summer of 2017, Connecticut passed a law to legalize sports betting in the state pending the government’s ruling on New Jersey’s federal case against PASPA. In May of 2018, SCOTUS agreed with NJ and overturned PASPA, making it legal for each state to allow sports betting provided that they create and implement their own laws to regulate it.
Connecticut, like several other states, were banking on this ruling from SCOTUS and felt that they were in a great position to be one of the first states in the new sports betting era to roll out a legalized sports betting framework. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen as they hit a few major snags.
Initially, Governor Malloy was eager to call a special session to gather all of the state’s leaders and discuss how to regulate sports betting in the state. However, what he didn’t take into consideration, prior to his public jubilee over the downfall of PASPA, was how sports betting would impact the deals that the state already has with tribal casinos.
Compacts with Connecticut Tribes
The Mashantucket Pequot and the Mohegan tribes have exclusive rights to gambling in Connecticut due to the compacts that they have in place with the state. The tribes take the position that sports betting falls under their current agreements, which is the same stances that most tribes have taken in other states like New York, Mississippi, and California. Mississippi will soon join the list of states for legalized sports betting, but New York and California can’t seem to figure things out within their state legislature and with their tribes. And now, just like NY and CA, Connecticut also struggles to work out a deal with the tribes to implement sports betting.
If Connecticut tries to go around the tribes, the Mashantucket Pequot and the Mohegan have threatened to stop paying the state their portion of slot revenues. Last year, that number was more than $270 million dollars.
The Governor certainly doesn’t want to lose that money or put Connecticut at odds with the only casinos in the state. So, they’re at a stand-still and can’t move forward until they figure things out.
Governor Malloy made the following comments about the state’s current sports betting status, according to News 12 Connecticut:
“Because of the situation long ago established in Connecticut, until we have an agreement with the tribal nations on how to proceed with respect to their rights, we can’t proceed at all.”
How Does Connecticut Move Forward with Sports Betting?
In addition to the delicate relationship between the state and the two tribes with casinos, Connecticut lawmakers will also need to figure out what to do with online gambling. Currently, there seems to be a split over whether or not to include online gambling.
States like New Jersey and Mississippi are all for online gambling and believe it’s essential to really maximize sports betting revenue. Other states like Rhode Island are taking a more conservative approach by rolling out a smaller sports betting program that doesn’t initially include online wagering.
Personally, I believe that all states should have online wagering, just limit where bettors can place their online wagers. For example, Mississippi makes it so betters have to be on casino grounds to place online wagers.
Once the state figures out what to do with online wagering, they can take that plan to the tribe and workout an overall agreement that will be beneficial to both parties. If an agreement can’t be reached, this could turn into an ugly legal battle as both sides fight for what they think they deserve.
Right now, the first steps to a peaceful agreement all comes down to the discussions that Governor Malloy has with the two tribes. If an agreement can be reached then the Governor will have to take these details back to state legislature so that they can vote on it and pass it into law.
Final Words on Sports Betting in Connecticut
Unfortunately for proponents of sports betting in Connecticut, there’s no clear-cut timetable as to when the state will be able to officially start taking wagers. Despite Connecticut already legalizing sports betting, there still needs to be provisions set in place on how to regulate this industry and the state needs to work out a tricky agreement with the two tribes. In other words, the odds are not in favor of sports betting coming to fruition in 2018 for the state of Connecticut. At least they’re not looking at 2020 like California.
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