Connecticut sports betting took its next step to becoming a reality with the Connecticut House passing the gambling bill with a 122-21 vote. This means sports fans could be placing bets online in Connecticut before the start of the NFL season this fall.
Connecticut is home to two tribal casinos, Foxwoods Resorts Casino and the Mohegan Sun. Both joined the gambling industry in the 1990s, but since then no further gambling expansion was allowed. This bill, if passed by the Senate and signed off by the governor and federal government, could be a big step forward in expanding retail and online gambling in the state.
What Could Sports Betting In Connecticut Look Like?
The Connecticut Sports Betting bill authorizes both the Connecticut Lottery and the two tribal casinos to offer online gambling in the state. All sports betting apps will need to be licensed through the Connecticut Lottery or one of the two tribal casinos.
In addition to online betting, the two tribal casinos will be able to open retail sports betting at their casinos. The Connecticut Lottery also will operate sports betting at 15 additional retail locations within the state, including locations in Hartford and Bridgeport.
The bill also provides restrictions on college betting similar to other states, like New Jersey and Virginia. No wagers will be accepted for in-state collegiate teams, like U Conn, but wagers will be accepted if those teams place in bracket events, like March Madness.
Licensing Process Already Underway For Connecticut Sports Betting Operators
Unique within the industry, the Connecticut Lottery is already beginning the licensing process even before only gambling officially becomes legal in the state. In April 2021, the CT Lottery set a schedule for licensing. The organization received 15 Requests For Qualifications from operators wishing to offer betting apps in the state.
Under the language of the draft bill, each tribe will be able to operate one skin for sports betting and one skin for online casino gambling. The CT Lottery can also operate its own skin for online sports betting. Unless this language is changed before the final bill is passed it could limit sports fans to only 3 sports betting apps in the state.
Online Casino Gaming? Yes. DFS? No.
The bill not only allows retail and mobile sports betting but also provides for the legalization of online casinos in Connecticut, making it one of the few states to do so. This places Connecticut in a more competitive position in comparison to New York and Massachusetts, each of which is in the process of legalizing and launching mobile sports betting, but not online casinos.
Until now, DFS operators like FanDuel and DraftKings operated fantasy sports in Connecticut in a somewhat grey area – neither explicitly legal nor illegal. This Connecticut gambling bill officially legalizes DFS operators, but they must go through a licensing process this year. The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection will need to develop a regulatory framework and license DFS providers.
This could mean that DFS operators will need to cease operations while going through the licensing process – and could mean that DraftKings and FanDuel DFS would need to sit out the football season in Connecticut. Moreover, ESPN is one of DraftKings backers and ESPN employees work on fantasy sports projects – from their home base in Bristol, Connecticut. This is, perhaps, an unintended wrinkle that will need to be ironed out.
What’s Next For CT Sports Betting?
Next, the bill heads to the Connecticut State Senate for passage before landing on Governor Ned Lamont’s desk. There has been no indication that Lamont would veto the bill. In fact, Lamont told the CT Mirror “I look forward to this measure’s swift passage in the Senate, so we can start the federal process of ensuring this legislation and agreement is authorized.”
Because the bill essentially codifies a gaming compact made between Lamont and the Connecticut tribes in March of this year, it must be reviewed by the Department of Interior before becoming law. This is similar to the process facing both Arizona and Florida sports betting legislation right now.
The goal after receiving quick approval from the DOI is to launch the first betting apps in time for NFL kickoff this fall.