With Gov. Lamont’s backing, legalized sports betting in Connecticut appears to be on the horizon
The Connecticut General Assembly Public Safety and Security Committee hosted a public hearing on Tuesday to discuss multiple bills regarding the legalization of sports betting.
The Connecticut General Assembly Public Safety and Security Committee is considering multiple bills with the goal of legalizing sports betting in the state of Connecticut.
On Feb. 10, Gov. Ned Lamont announced his fiscal budget proposal for fiscal years 2021-2022 and 2022-2023. In his pre-recorded announcement speech, he expressed his support for sports betting and internet gaming. Multiple bills being proposed in the Public Safety and Security Committee address sports and online betting, and a public hearing was held on Tuesday to discuss them.
“I am working with our neighboring states and look forward to working with our tribal partners on a path forward to modernize gaming in our state, as well as the legislature on legalization of marijuana,” Lamont said in his budget announcement speech last month. “Sports betting, internet gaming and legalized marijuana are happening all around us. Let’s not surrender these opportunities to out-of-state markets or even worse, underground markets.”
One of the main sports gambling bills under consideration, SB 146, would allow betting on in-state intercollegiate competitions. Neal Eskin, the executive associate director of athletics at the University of Connecticut, expressed his strong opposition to intercollegiate sports betting at the hearing Tuesday morning.
Currently, laws in several nearby states that include many of Yale’s Ivy League opponents, including New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island and New Hampshire, permit sports betting but prohibit bettors from putting wagers on in-state intercollegiate teams. A bettor in Rhode Island, for example, cannot bet on Providence College or Brown University but would be allowed to bet on games that feature teams from the other 49 states.
“If collegiate sports betting is legalized,” Eskin stated in his testimony, “UConn and the other collegiate sports programs in Connecticut will have to greatly expand education, training and monitoring efforts as we endeavor to protect student-athletes and the integrity of intercollegiate sporting events played in Connecticut.”
Yale Athletics did not send any representatives to the hearing.
However, Nick Wojcik, a writer for odds.com, told the News that policymakers in states with laws against in-state collegiate sports betting “have changed tune” as they realize the potential for significant increases in revenue from big bettors who want to place wagers on hometown teams.
“At first, the whole logic was ‘Well, you know, you could easily get a college kid to shave points off or whatever for his personal gain,’” Wojcik said. “But now I think that’s kind of ridiculous to think.”
Under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, or PASPA, sports betting was illegal for the most part outside of Nevada. However, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned PASPA in 2018, allowing sports betting to be legislated by individual states.
Sports betting is not yet legalized in Massachusetts or Connecticut and is only offered in limited in-person capacities in New York. Rhode Island and New Hampshire are currently the only states in the New England area with fully operational legal online sports betting. Wojcik explained how, in his opinion, Connecticut’s entry into this market would not only boost revenue but increase tourism as well.
“If it’s marketed correctly, tourism will definitely be a thing,” Wojcik said. “People will be traveling to Connecticut just to place bets … You will see more traffic on an NFL Sunday if New York and Massachusetts don’t have it.”
Some members who sit on the committee, like Rep. Michael DiMassa of New Haven and West Haven, are skeptical of sports wagering being allowed in Connecticut this legislative session.
“[There is a] 25 percent [chance sports betting passes] to be honest because there are a lot of outliers that have to be worked out,” DiMassa told the News.
One of the main outliers DiMassa described to the News includes negotiations with tribal entities, who own the casinos in Connecticut.
While the Mohegan Tribe has come to an agreement with Lamont on sports betting, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation is not yet in agreement. Chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Commission Rodney Butler spoke at the public hearing Tuesday expressing support for SB 146 and said that the governor’s office and tribal entities are “close” to reaching a deal.
Butler also noted that this deal is about “fairness and equity” for the Mashantucket Pequot tribe.
He said the deal can help provide “funding [for] our healthcare for our tribal elders, funding education for our tribal youth. For providing public safety. We don’t have a tax base. We can’t increase taxes.”
Rob Gallagher, a pit manager at Mohegan Sun who spoke on behalf of the Mohegan Tribe at Tuesday’s hearing, also stressed the economic importance of sports betting to the Mohegan Tribe.
“By passing online gaming and online sports wagering, you’ll make it easier for our team to withstand a downturn in the future and also do more for the state of Connecticut in the years ahead,” Gallagher said in testimony. Gallagher spoke about the importance of revenue for the tribe given losses this past year because of COVID-19.
Once the negotiations between the governor’s office, Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and the Mohegan Tribe are complete, the compact will be sent to the legislature for approval.
State residents who think they might have a gambling problem can contact the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling by calling (888) 789-7777 or can text “CTGAMB” to 53342.
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