Not even a week ago, many believed that legal sports betting would not be making its way to Connecticut this year. When Governor Ned Lamont said that talks between the state and the tribes halted, that pretty much put the nail in the coffin. Well, pull those nails back out because there may still be a chance Connecticut could have a breakthrough this year after all.
The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes have been partnered up with the state of Connecticut for decades. The partnership allows the tribes to have exclusive rights to operate casino gaming in the state. In return, the tribes pay the state of Connecticut 25 percent of their slot-machine revenue.
Now the big issue between the tribes and the state is the exclusivity of sports betting. The tribes, of course, believe they are entitled to the exclusive rights to sports betting in Connecticut. The state disagrees. Other matters involving casino activities between the tribes and state are also causing some friction between the two as well.
Optimism Still Around
We’re now a week past Lamont’s claim that talks have halted between the two parties. Rodney Butler, the Mashantucket chairman, suggests that may not be the case.
CDC Gaming Reports has reported Butler saying, “I think we’re closer than the headlines would indicate. We’re still actively talking and only a few weeks left in the session, and all have to work hard and stay focused on it, but I think we are all aligned. Connecticut should be competitive, and that includes having sports betting and online gaming. It’s now about working out the details between now and the end of the session. If not, they can have a special session.”
Butler said last week that the tribes would be open to a compromise for the time being. That would allow the tribes to operate sports betting this year, and then they could revisit the issue the following year. Perhaps the state is open to that agreement. Of course, they will probably require some financial compensation.
Short Time To Work
Butler isn’t the only one who is still optimistic that Connecticut could make something happen this year. State representative Joe Verrengia, a co-chair of the committee that oversees gaming, believes something could still be done this session. “Just because the governor’s hit the pause button doesn’t mean we still can’t take a look at something,” said Verrengia. “If a certain delegation wants to move forward on a particular bill, that’s still possible.”
“If everyone is committed to it, we should be able to get it done,” said Butler. “We all know that we want to do sports betting and should have it.”
The Connecticut general assembly adjourns on June 8. That gives the state and the tribes about three weeks to get something done. Lamont may have said that nothing may happen this session, but the tribes are not giving up. Waiting another year to bring sports betting to Connecticut benefits neither the state nor the tribes. It would make financial sense for both parties to agree on something, even if it is short term. Waiting another year to legalize sports betting could really put Connecticut in the back of the pack in a Northeast Region that has more and more states moving towards legalization each day.