February 10, 2021 | Last updated on February 10, 2021
Some in Connecticut have supported Internet gaming for years. In particular, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and the Mohegan Tribe of the Connecticut Indians have expressed their support for Igaming to generate more revenue. Legislators like Senator Catherine Osten have filed bills year after year to legalize sports betting and online gambling.
You now have a bill – SB.146 – behind which you can use your efforts and advocacy.
There are several reasons to suspect that these lawmakers have a better chance of getting their bill passed this year than they have in the past. In 2021 Connecticut did very well with New Jersey, Delaware, Michigan, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania having legal online casino games and Nevada legalizing online poker.
Years of petition
Connecticut is no stranger to gambling, one of the earliest adopters of a state lottery that started in 1971. Bingo was legalized a long time ago, as were horse racing, off-track betting, charity games, etc.
When the US Congress passed the Indian Regulatory Gaming Act (IGRA) in 1988, two tribes from Connecticut came together to sign treaties with the state government. The Mashantucket Pequots opened their Foxwoods Resort Casino in 1992 and the Mohegans opened the Mohegan Sun a few years later. The Mashantucket Pequots recently signed a deal with MGM to expand their gambling opportunities. Both tribes operate fully functional casino resorts.
Both tribes also expressed their support for online gambling after Black Friday.
It wasn’t until 2018 that lawmakers seemed to take the idea of igaming seriously, after New Jersey had built its online industry for years with great success. That year the Public Safety Committee held a hearing to investigate the issue further, and both tribes had strong support for online casino games, daily fantasy sports, and online poker.
At the time, however, too many lawmakers had no idea how online games worked and how they could protect customers. So the house majority and deputy minority leaders closed it. A 2019 bill was passed by the Senate Public Security Committee, but it died on the ground.
CT Tribal Gaming, Sportwetten – Osten is preparing to re-submit the game invoice https://t.co/Cn4EJEM2jp via @thedayct
– Laura Briggs (@Fantini_LauraB) January 21, 2020
In February 2020, Senator Catherine Osten again put forward a proposal for online gambling and sports betting. A non-partisan group of lawmakers signed an SB.21, and the tribes loved it. The problem was that Connecticut was at the center of a federal lawsuit between MGM and the US Department of the Interior over a new casino. Another issue was tension between Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont and the tribal leaders.
Time to reconsider?
When the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States and casinos were closed indefinitely, the Southeastern Connecticut Governing Council, along with the Lamont tribes, called on the Lamont tribes to sign an executive order to allow online gaming to offset the lost revenue. Lamont denied the motion and referred the matter to the legislature.
Meanwhile, Connecticut lawmakers watched New Jersey and then Pennsylvania accumulate billions and billions of dollars in Igaming and online sports betting income through 2020. Delaware also garnered some income online. And Michigan has worked all year to make its igaming laws more accessible to online poker operators for launch in early 2021, and the first few sites did just that.
In December 2020, Lamont revealed he had a change of heart. He told the Hartford Courant that he was working with the tribes to negotiate the sports betting issue. They still had to chat with lottery and off-track betting providers, but Lamont sounded positive. “We’re trying to get a place where we can bring sports betting and even iGaming into the state – in a way that doesn’t cause litigation, and we’re trying to work that through.”
New year, new priorities
As Connecticut lawmakers prepared to go back to work in the first week of 2021, the Hartford Courant reported on the top issues to discuss. Given the pandemic and the resulting catastrophic economic situation, a primary goal would be to find new sources of revenue for the state without raising taxes.
One of these sources of income could be sports betting. Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney said 2021 would have to be the year for an agreement on the issue to be reached. The Mashantucket Pequots had just signed an online sports betting deal with DraftKings, and the tribes were campaigning hard for it.
Enter east and 16 of your co-legislators (and five fellow campaigners) got together to come up with a proposal that would make things happen. The proposed SB.146 is a non-partisan, two-chamber act that “authorizes sports betting, internet games, internet lottery and internet keno”.
They referred the bill to the Joint Public Security Committee on January 13 and approved the bill on January 21. (All but one of the members voted for a bill.)
Where is online poker?
The bill on the table is just a placeholder. A much more detailed bill needs to be written before it is put to the Senate for vote.
In the meantime, please note that the word “poker” is not included in the proposal.
The bill calls for amended Connecticut statutes to authorize the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes to conduct “sports betting on Indian land, online sports betting and online casino games.” The Connecticut Lottery would put draw game tickets and keno online. And it would empower the relevant regulatory authority to “demand appropriate procedures and data security standards for Internet games”.
This is clearly a rough overview.
If the poker community had some sort of lobbying group or representative organization, this would be the perfect time to speak to these Connecticut Bill sponsors to insist that online poker be a part of the final bill.
Connecticut legislature supports sports betting and online gambling to fund debt-free community college – Hartford Courant https://t.co/UtPAagZApS
– Cathy Osten (@CathyOsten) February 6, 2021
Jennifer began writing about poker on the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. Since then, her freelance writing career has taken her from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back to her hometown of St. Louis, where she now lives with her two dogs. She continues to follow the poker world by starting a new subscription boxing company and completing her first novel. Jennifer has written for numerous publications including PokerStars.com and has closely followed the US poker and gaming markets for the past 15 years. Follow Jen on Twitter
Disclaimer: The information on this website is my interpretation of the laws made available online. It is in no way intended as legal advice or instruction. We recommend that you seek advice from a licensed attorney for further or official guidance.