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November 19, 2018 | Edition Nº3619

Governor is holding a meeting Wednesday on the issue

Connecticut is getting ready for sports betting

Connecticut is getting ready for sports betting
"It is a little more complicated in Connecticut than it is in other states, given the nature of the compact that we have with two Indian tribes," the Governor revealed.
United States | 05/23/2018

With the U.S. Supreme Court having cleared the way for legalized sports wagering across the country, Governor Dannel P. Malloy and legislators are exploring plans for sports betting in Connecticut.

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onnecticut's Governor Malloy will be holding a meeting with top legislative leaders in his Capitol office Wednesday to discuss the next steps in the complicated world of sports betting, Hartford Courant reports.

Even though the Supreme Court on Monday struck down a federal law that bars gambling on football, basketball, baseball and other sports in most states, giving states the go-ahead to legalize betting on sports, Legislators in Connecticut are unsure exactly how the betting would work.

The two tribal casinos in southeastern Connecticut have said they believe they have the exclusive right to operate sports betting in the state, but Attorney General George Jepsen recently declared that the tribes do not have the exclusive right.

One of the biggest issues facing the legislature is whether any change in gambling could be seen as a violation of the compacts that the state signed in the 1990s with the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes. Under those agreements, the state currently receives about $273 million in the current fiscal year in a slot machine revenue-sharing arrangement.

“I would not sign anything into law — that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be passed over my objection — that endangered our share of the gaming proceeds that we currently have,’’ Malloy told reporters Tuesday at the Capitol.

Since the tribal casinos were opened more than two decades ago, the state has received more than $7 billion cumulatively in shared slot revenue.

The money that the state receives from the tribes is expected to decrease when a new MGM Resorts International casino opens in Springfield in August. The slot revenues to the state are expected to drop to about $204 million in the next fiscal year and drop below $200 million in 2020 because of the Springfield competition.

It is unclear whether sports betting might be limited to a combination of off-track betting locations, casinos or places where lottery tickets are sold. The legislature has a series of unanswered questions and did not pass any bills during the recently completed 2018 regular session regarding the issue.

Lawmakers have been studying the issue closely for months, but no final decisions have been made. Last week’s Supreme Court ruling came in a long-awaited case after New Jersey fought in court to allow states to have the chance to legalize sports betting.

“I raised this issue in 2013, specifically around the New Jersey case,’’ Malloy told reporters Tuesday at the state Capitol. “I asked people to address it then, and there was no appetite to address it then. … We were looking at what was going to happen in the future, but the future is now.’’

He added, “It is a little more complicated in Connecticut than it is in other states, given the nature of the compact that we have with two Indian tribes. … It’s going to be complicated, but I do believe we should get it done this summer.’’

State Rep. Derek Slap, a West Hartford Democrat, said that professional sports leagues should not get a cut of the total amount of money that is bet. Under the latest proposal, leagues like the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball would receive a fee of 0.25 percent of the amount bet in Connecticut, which is lower than an original proposal of 1 percent.

“I think the integrity fee is a bad idea,’’ Slap said Tuesday. “Other states don’t have it.’’

Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, who is gathering signatures to force a Democratic gubernatorial primary against Greenwich business executive Ned Lamont, is in favor of sports betting. Ganim had been lobbying legislators this year to allow MGM Resorts to move forward with plans for a commercial casino in Bridgeport.

“What we do not support is exclusivity of gaming in our state — for anyone,’’ said Av Harris, Ganim’s chief spokesman. “It is long past time for an open, competitive commercial gaming market in Connecticut, and there is a growing legislative momentum to establish one. Taking this step could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue and create thousands of jobs without threatening any gaming industry jobs we already have.’’

He added, “If the governor wants to amend the tribal gaming compacts, then let’s look at everything, not just sports betting. Could we open the compact so taxpayers can derive revenue from entertainment venues, restaurants, hotels and table games in addition to slot machines? Could the compact be amended in such a way as to allow for open, competitive commercial gaming off tribal land? We would be very open to that.”

Lamont agreed last week that lawmakers should explore sports betting.

“We just did the court decision on sports betting, I think there's some talk about another casino, perhaps in Bridgeport,” he said. “Look, it's not the future of the state, but it's not something I'm going to stand in the way of. ... They're gambling every day online, it's a new world, it's an internet-based world right now, so is Connecticut going to play in the world or not? I think we are."

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