The state’s tribal gambling companies on Tuesday told state lawmakers why they should conduct future online and sports betting operations that Connecticut may choose.
The Connecticut Lottery Corp. however, went self-employed, emphasizing that the next generation of gamers are young and smartphone savvy and want to play new games without affecting the growth in sales of traditional paper lottery games in retail.
And Sportech Enterprises, which has operated off-track betting companies for more than a quarter of a century, said it was also poised to help expand without jeopardizing existing businesses.
However, Governor Ned Lamont has the final say on expanded gambling as it is up to him to continue the original treaty with the tribal nations that allowed slot machine revenue to flow to the state for 30 years.
During a three-and-a-half hour hearing before the General Assembly’s Public Safety Committee, representatives from the tribal nations of Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan emphasized that online and sports betting are traditional casino games that should be covered by their exclusive agreements dating back to 1991 when Foxwoods Resort Casino opened first opened.
“The time to act is now and we are here to partner with you,” said Ray Pineault, chief operating officer of Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment, which operates Mohegan Sun Casino & Resort.
Chuck Bunnell, Chief of Staff of the Mohegan Tribal Nation, emphasized the existing agreement. “This is a government discussion between the two tribes and your governor in a process that you quite frankly set up,” said Bunnell. “We are pretty sure that nobody new should come to this market. It’s an excellent agreement that works and we should protect the relationship that employs thousands of people. “
Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, said during the virtual hearing that the agreement to give Connecticut 25 percent of slot machine sales totaled $ 8 billion since 1991 and the two tribes $ 2 billion each Generate year of regional economic activity.
“Every day Connecticut leaves money on the table,” Butler said, noting that the tribe has signed a deal with DraftKings to handle future sports betting. He said if entities other than the Tribes were given the right to sports games, it would violate the deal, which goes back to Governor Lowell P. Weicker Jr. “We’re at the one-yard line and just gotta hit it at this point,” Butler said of active conversations with the governor.
Max Reiss, Lamont’s communications director, said the governor had made progress in negotiating with the tribes. “These talks were productive,” Reiss said in a statement in the afternoon. “The governor continues to focus on being competitive with our surrounding states and not letting any new part of the economy slip by the state. He will continue to work for the best in Connecticut and for the next generation. “
“We’re about to make a difference,” said Senator Dennis Bradley, D-Bridgeport, co-chair of the committee, to Butler, emphasizing that he would like to see a possible tribal development in Bridgeport.
“That’s the next point in the pecking order,” Butler said, noting that he’d be looking at Bridgeport after the two tribes developed a proposed East Windsor satellite casino over the next three to four years. “I would love to see Bridgeport become the sports betting mega-hub,” Bradley replied. “How would you feel about that?”
Butler said a $ 25 million to $ 50 million sports betting center doesn’t make financial sense. And a $ 3 million facility wouldn’t change the landscape of downtown Bridgeport, he said.
Rob Simmelkjaer, chairman of the board of Connecticut Lottery Corp., said the state could generate more revenue by using the quasi-public agency to operate sports betting.
“It’s time to approve sports betting in Connecticut,” Simmelkjaer said, noting that 19 other states have legal sports betting. “It’s part of being a sports fan now, listening to sports betting.” He said the 2,900 lottery retailers would also play a role in sports betting. “They do it because it’s convenient,” he said of those who bet on sports. “It’s right there, in your city. This can be done with cash and not necessarily a credit or debit card. There are also some impulse buying. “
Rep. Kurt Vail, R-Stafford said he believed the lottery was taking advantage of low and middle income residents.
“It is the people who need the money most in the pandemic who may be reaching for the stars in the lottery,” Vail said. “I don’t see rich people going to the store and buying lottery tickets.”
According to a 2019 study, a third of customers earn $ 100,000 or more, a third earn $ 50,000 to $ 100,000, and less than a third earn less than $ 50,000.
“We have the opportunity to make great strides and economic growth,” said Ted Taylor, President of Sportech, who wants all four existing groups, including the Lottery and the Tribes, to share sports betting rights. “It would generate so much tax revenue for the state while also offering a great all-round product. The last thing we want to do is show games on multiple TV screens and get people to bet on someone else’s app. “
“The only people who believe the tribes have exclusive rights are the tribes themselves,” said Rich Pingel, chief legal officer of Sportech, who wagers at eleven places like Bobby V’s in Stamford and nearby pari-mutuel including horse racing and Jai Alai operates the airport in Windsor Locks and Sports Haven in New Haven. “We sincerely hope that 2021 will be the year Connecticut will close sports betting.”
Sportech paid $ 20 million in 1993 for the rights to operate off-track betting in the state.
“I’m all for competitiveness,” said Rep. JP Sredzinski, R-Monroe, a committee member. Vail, a veteran of the committee, called on the Tribes, the Lottery, and Sportech to reach an agreement on sports betting.
State Senator Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, a tribal casino attorney, said the hearing is important as the state is at a crucial moment.
“To me, the answer is simple: Our two tribal nationals, the Mohegans and the Mashantucket Pequots, have earned the right to practice sports betting in Connecticut because they are our long-standing, local business partners who employ thousands of citizens and have Connecticut has generated sales of over $ 9 billion since we developed our gaming compacts 30 years ago, ”said Osten.
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