Gambling in Connecticut has been a vehemently debated subject which reached a crescendo around the time of PASPA’s repeal, but seemed to gather little traction thereafter. What’s changed?
Making Sense of Connecticut’s Gaming & Sports Betting
Trying to understand Connecticut’s complicate climate for gambling and sports betting activities is a fine challenge. Back in 2018, House Speaker Joseph Aresimowicz cautioned that there were too many “moving parts” for any meaningful dialogue to occur.
He was right, and given the present circumstance – he still is right. These moving parts are lobbying, arguing, adding oil to fuel scandals and plotting, with millions worth of hard currency shed in the process. This is not an exaggeration. It’s the facts.
MGM has been lobbying to open a Bridgeport casino for years. A bill for an RFP cleared the House in 2018, but was never called in the Senate. The departure of three Democratic senators from the chamber could give the bill a more favorable outcome in 2019. https://t.co/WDfmN9e0nm
— Connecticut Post (@connpost) January 16, 2019
The newly-proposed East Windsor and Bridgeport casinos along with a sports betting bill have long been part of the political agenda and a favorite talking point for those opposed.
Presently, the realization of fresh casino projects seems far likelier than a year ago, but sports betting remains quite the topic to debate. All of this despite a looming reversal of the Wire Act of 1961.
But who’s feuding and most importantly – why?
The Many Warring Factions of Connecticut’s Gambling Landscape
The Mashantucket Pequot and the Mohegan Tribes of Connecticut have been the ones to urge lawmakers to look into the potential expansion of the online market.
While tribes have traditionally been the naysayers of the online gambling world, the tribes of Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan have assumed a different approach, rallying against the land-based properties of MGM Resorts International.
MGM Resorts are not alone with now Caesars Entertainment joining the fray, trying to cajole CT Gov. Ned Lamont into accepting a bid from the company which would allow the casino operator to build new properties in the state, reversing the tribes’ exclusive control over the industry.
Mr. Lamon, though, doesn’t want to take sides in the 5-year-old conflict. He is determined to see laws passed so that Connecticut can catch up to the rest of the country.
Of course, not all states plan to legalize their industries. By 2030, fewer than 25 states will have legal operations in place.
Back to the question at hand, while the tribes are pro online gambling, they are not comfortable with relenting their well-established dominance over the segment. Should there be sports betting running, it should be concentrated in their hands. MGM doesn’t fully agree with this view. Mr. Lamont has explained the situation like this:
I’ve got a lot of moving parts, and it’s my job to make sure we don’t get mired in the legal mud for the next five years. What does that accomplish? So, I don’t have any preconceived notions.
According to reports, Mr. Lamont has already had individual meetings with both parties. However, freshly-stepped in the job, his daily agenda is not wanting for things to do and given the complexity of the nearly five-year-old feud between the casino brand and the tribes, it’s a sensitive issue that promises to affect many people.
Why Is it All So Complicated?
Some issues are just not easy to settle. Once upon a time, in 2015-2016 to be specific, the tribes wanted to build a new casino in East Windsor. This would have allowed the tribes to compete against MGM Springfield build in a daring attempt to syphon off customers from Connecticut. The then Gov. Dannel Malloy had this to say:
Our state has a longstanding partnership and compact with the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribal nations who employ thousands of Connecticut residents in their casinos. I have been very clear that I will not sign a bill that puts these jobs at risk, and I look forward to reviewing this proposal.
In retrospect, the tribes needn’t have worried as much. Springfield hasn’t exactly been a success and the trickle from Connecticut has been negligible (barely scratching $27 million of revenue in its first full month of operation).
However, the fact that MGM had gone to D.C. and convinced Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to halt the plans of the tribes, using the Bureau of Indian Affairs was the first salvo to come in a now five-year cold snap in communication.
Basically, MGM had managed to muster the local support to fight the tribes on their home turf, asking for Connecticut to slash the exclusive rights for casino ownership. It looked like a fight MGM was successful in, but then 2018 came and sports betting bans were lifted.
2018 Was Not a Zinger Entirely
In 2018, there were even more things happening to the casino landscape. Let’s start with something really rather easy to comprehend – Mr. Zinke was forced to step down from office over multiple investigations exposing his involvement in suspicious activities, including his arbitrary involvement in Connecticut’s casino brawls.
With Zinger gone, there’s been a feeling that justice has been served. However, the absence of a possibly venal politician hasn’t made up for the past mistakes that have led to the present predicament. In light of a now repealed PASPA, Mr. Lamont knows what needs to be done for CT to be successful, despite the local feuds:
I know what I want to get accomplished, which is to get something done. I just think sports betting and internet gambling is going to be part of America’s economy. And why should Connecticut get left behind?
The question remains – how can he navigate through the intricate sea of warring factions within his state?
2019 Is Going to Be a Good One for Sports Betting – Bill 17
The political capital to get on with a bill would be quite extensive. CT first tried to legalize sports betting in the state back in 2017. It was a qualified success with nothing really coming out of it.
However, at the beginning of this year (2019), a new draft legislation entitled “Proposed Bill No. 17” has been submitted up for deliberation.
- To provide for additional revenues and jobs from the operation of sports wagering, Internet gambling and Internet Keno;
- To enhance the revenue to the state from agreements between the state and federally recognized Indian tribes in Connecticut;
- To help the Connecticut’s gaming and tourism industries remain competitive with those in surrounding states;
- To monitor & verity the physical location of all participants
Only two pages long, the bill outlines several important developments, although they still need to be fleshed out in greater detail.
Mr. Lamont may finally rest as the support of lawmakers, should the bill be seen through, would be enough to make up for the raging spat between MGM and Connecticut’s tribes.