he Connecticut House of Representatives approved a gambling agreement Thursday that Gov. Ned Lamont reached in March with the state’s two federally recognized tribes, which would bring legal sports betting and online gaming.
The House members voted 122 to 21 with eight members absent to pass the measure, which now awaits action in the Senate, and directs the governor to amend the state’s compacts with the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes that govern gambling, allowing both to offer sports betting, online gambling and online fantasy contests in return for providing the state a share of the revenue generated, the Associated Press reports.
Lawmakers are hoping that sports betting could start before the National Football League season begins in September, but that date is not in the bill because the measure still requires approval by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of Interior.
“This bill that we see tonight is the culmination of many, many years of work heading in many directions in Connecticut,” said Rep. Maria Horn, D-Salisbury, co-chair of the General Assembly’s Public Safety Committee.
The agreement allows the Connecticut Lottery Corporation to also offer online sports wagering and retail sports betting at 15 locations, including ones specifically located in Hartford and Bridgeport.
The changes would generate an additional $30 million overall in the next fiscal year and eventually reach $83 million annually by the 2026 fiscal year. For online gambling, the state’s tax rate on gross revenues will be 18% for the first five years and then 20% for the next five years, with an option to continue for another five years. The tax rate on sports betting and fantasy contests will be 13.75%.
States across the country have been moving towards the future, making critically needed expansions to their gaming industry by investing in new online technology. pic.twitter.com/CEAa1SHcp7— CT House Democrats (@CTHouseDems) May 20, 2021
Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot tribe, said in a statement he was pleased state lawmakers were finally voting on a sports betting and internet gambling deal, something he has been urging the General Assembly to pass for years. “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,” he said. “Passage of this legislation will enable us to do just that, and more, for generations to come.”
James Gessner Jr., chairman of the Mohegan Tribal Council, said in a statement that modernizing the gambling industry this way will help Connecticut “keep pace” with neighboring states, protect Connecticut jobs and generate tax revenues that benefit the state, municipalities and the tribes.
State lawmakers from the East Windsor area, which will lose property taxes over the deal, voted against the agreement, which prevents the tribes from building a planned satellite casino in the town to compete with the MGM casino in nearby Springfield, Massachusetts. The legislation prevents the off-reservation tribal casino from being built during the first 10 years of this new agreement with the state. “This is built on a broken deal and I will not be supporting it here,” said Rep. Tom Delnicki, R-South Windsor.
In addition, Sportech, the state-licensed parimutel operator, questioned the constitutionality of the agreement and expressed hope that it can reach a separate agreement with the state. Paul Mounds, the governor’s chief of staff noted the deal allows the lottery to sublicense the sports betting operations to Sportech.