Last December, a Connecticut lawmaker said that “You can bet on” sports betting becoming a legal activity in 2021. On Wednesday, the state’s governor echoed those sentiments and made it seem like all forms of online gambling would be legal as well.
Gov. Ned Lamont released his two-year state budget Wednesday and he allotted $47.3 million in tax revenue from the second year of expanded gambling, according to a report from the Hartford Courant.
Based on comments made by Lamont at the time of the release of his budget proposal, it appears expanded gambling includes both retail and online sports betting, as well as online casino gaming.
“Our neighboring states are moving forward with sports betting and iGaming, and Connecticut should not leave these opportunities for other states to benefit from our inaction,” said Lamont. “My administration has been in active negotiations with our tribal partners to bring the state’s gaming economy into the digital age. And I am submitting legislation which reflects what I believe to be the best bet in ending this stalemate of inaction in a way which is in the best interest of the entire state.”
Both Rhode Island and New Hampshire already offer online and brick-and-mortar sports betting, and New York seems set to expand its sports betting market after recent comments made by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Pennsylvania has also seen increased revenues after legalizing all forms of online gambling.
The tribal partners Lamont was referring to is the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, which runs Foxwoods Resort Casino and the Mohegan Tribe, which is in charge of Mohegan Sun. Currently, nearly all forms of gambling, outside of the lottery and off-track betting, runs through those two tribes.
The pandemic has hurt the brick-and-mortar revenue of those two tribes’ casinos, which in turn has put a dent in the state coffers. Connecticut is facing a $1 billion deficit at the time of Lamont’s budget proposal.
Lamont made comments in December that seemed like he was ready for Connecticut to mirror the models in place in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
“If we found out anything in the course of this horrible COVID cycle, more and more of the world is going virtual,” said Lamont at the end of last year. “More and more of the world is going online. That’s tele-health and tele-learning, but it’s also iGaming and sports betting. And I don’t think you want Connecticut left behind.”
With any proposed gambling expansion, those two entities will be at the center of the negotiations. The Courant’s report says that the governor and the tribes have been in “long-running talks” about whether the tribes will have exclusive rights, like they currently do, for any form of gambling expansion.
Foxwoods announced a partnership with daily fantasy sports giant DraftKings at the end of 2020, which gives the Boston-based online sportsbook a track to the Connecticut market regardless of any pending agreements.