Connecticut House Approval Paves the Way for Gambling Expansion

Gambling expansion in Connecticut received a significant boost Thursday after the state House voted to approve the amended compacts with the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes.

House Approved Tribal Compact Amendments

The legislation which allows the two federally recognized Native American tribes in Connecticut to offer sports betting, online gambling, and fantasy contests was approved by a 122-21 vote in the House and is expected to sail through the Senate.

“This bill that we see tonight is the culmination of many, many years of work heading in many directions in Connecticut.”

Rep. Maria Horn, Co-Chair, Public Safety Committee, General Assembly

The bill, which approved the amended compacts signed between Gov. Ned Lamont and the Mohegan and Mashantucket tribes in March, also allows the Connecticut Lottery Corporation (CTC) to offer online sports wagering and retail betting at 15 locations statewide, citing specifically the ones in Hartford and Bridgeport.

“For our Tribe, gaming is about much more than business; it is a means by which we rebuild our nation, educate our children, and take care of our elders. Passage of this legislation will enable us to do just that, and more, for generations to come.”

Rodney Butler, Chairman, Mashantucket Pequot Tribe

The bill passage will help Connecticut “keep pace” with neighboring states, protect vital jobs and generate revenues for the benefit of the communities, tribes, municipalities, and the state, said the chairman of the Mohegan Tribal Council James Gessner Jr., outlining the bill’s statewide impact during times when the state economy recovers from the pandemic.

The Price of Sports Betting

The tribes argued for years their exclusive gaming rights to offer casino gambling included sports betting and the agreements they reached with the state recognized that in return for providing a share of the revenue they generate.

The state will tax gross revenue from internet gambling with 18% for the first 5 years, followed by an increase to 20% for the next 5, with an option for another 5, while sports betting and fantasy contests will be subdued to 13.75% tax rate.

Besides tax payments, the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes will contribute $500,000 annually each to support programs for problem gambling and the CTC will increase its contribution by $1 million to a $3.3 million total.

In terms of player protection, the approved bill has provisions for a number of safeguards embedded in the gaming apps, including reminders of how long a gambler has been online, limits on credit, and the ability to self-exclude.

Displeased by the Approval

Opposition for the measure came from lawmakers from districts in and around East Windsor, and in 2017 the tribes were authorized to build a casino and provide competition to the MGM Springfield in Massachusetts, but as the casino market weakened, the tribes never broke ground. And they will not be able to do it for the next 10 years as the approved bill suspended their authorization.

The state-licensed pari-mutuel operator Sportech, which was left out of the deal, expressed hopes to reach a separate agreement with the state, but according to the governor’s chief of staff Paul Mounds, the deal allows the CTC to sublicense operations.

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