Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont and the state's two Native American casino owners announced Thursday an agreement on a comprehensive gambling expansion plan that could eventually lead to sports wagering and online gambling.
The deal reduces the state’s tax on internet gambling revenue in a compromise with the Mashantucket Pequots, who refused to agree to a 20% state share negotiated between Lamont and the Mohegan Tribe in a settlement announced two weeks ago. Under the new deal, the state would set an 18% tax rate for the first five years on new online gambling, followed by a 20% rate for at least the following five years. There would be a 13.75% state tax on sports wagering.
The three leaders said the deal would modernize gambling in Connecticut, generate tens of millions of dollars in new revenue for the state and improve financial conditions for the tribes' Eastern Connecticut casinos, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. “Connecticut is on cusp of providing a modern, technologically advanced gaming experience for our residents, which will be competitive with our neighboring states,” Lamont said in a joint announcement with the tribal leaders.
The agreement requires the approval of the General Assembly, which could make changes. In addition, a regulatory framework must be established and the U.S. Department of the Interior must sign off on changes to the tribe-state compacts dating to the 1990s.
Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequots, told reporters the agreement is a “decent compromise” that yields a “couple of million” to the tribe that needs the money more than the state does, Hartford Courant reports. Tribal officials and the Lamont administration returned to work to hammer out an agreement after a deal announced March 2 excluded his tribe, he said.
“After what had happened about two weeks ago we did have a fairly frank conversation about where we were at and we all refocused,” he said. Butler said Foxwoods expects sports betting, internet gambling and other games will yield a “nice bump” in revenue that, although valuable, will not nearly surpass slot revenue that so far was $204.1 million in the state’s budget year that began July 1.
Lamont called the deal a “good agreement, an agreement that allows the tribes to grow and prosper.”
“It’s something that all of our neighbors are doing, our neighboring states, and Connecticut is going to play. I think it’s a way to bring our cities and towns back to life, and represents some real revenue for the taxpayers,” he said during a visit to a Manchester restaurant.
James Gessner Jr., chairman of the Mohegan Tribal Council, said the agreement will generate tax revenue from sports and online gaming “that are competitive with other states, to the benefit of both state and local municipal budgets as well as our tribe’s members.”
The plan would bring casino games such as poker, sports betting and the lottery to cellphones and desktop computers, with the tribes and Connecticut Lottery competing against one another. The Connecticut Lottery would be allowed to offer sports wagering along with the tribes, as well as operate 15 retail sports betting locations, run new retail sports betting venues in Hartford and Bridgeport and expand online lottery offerings. The agreement authorizes Connecticut Lottery Corp. to sublicense locations to the state-licensed parimutuel operator, Sportech and expand iLottery and Keno through Connecticut Lottery, including the sale of draw tickets online.
Both tribes also agreed to stop development of a casino in East Windsor through the duration of the deal. The East Windsor casino was aimed at curbing competition from the MGM Springfield casino in Springfield, Mass. Lamont has been unenthusiastic about the project.
Sportech said the agreement “does not appear to offer” a “level playing field” in gambling it says is required by federal and state law. “Connecticut consumers will be deprived of a healthy competitive betting marketplace and the Connecticut jobs that Sportech supports will be at risk,” it said. “We continue our dialogue with the administration in pursuing gaming expansion that does not contravene laws and discriminate against not only our employees, but all Connecticut consumers.”
Lamont and the Mohegans, who own the Mohegan Sun, announced a deal earlier this month that excluded the Mashantucket Pequots, owners of Foxwoods Resort Casino. Negotiations continued with the Mashantucket Pequots. Sportech stepped back from criticism of the previous deal. It said then it had “little option but to pursue legal recourse.”
The agreement caps years of negotiations between the state and two tribal casinos to amend their compacts with Connecticut. Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino have had exclusive gambling rights in Connecticut since the early 1990s.