Senate Approves Connecticut Sports Betting, Bill Now Goes To Governor

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The Connecticut State Senate approved legislation shortly before midnight which essentially will bring Connecticut sports betting to the Nutmeg State.

The final vote 28 to 6 was never really in doubt. But the vote itself was delayed for much of the day because of unrelated matters involving one of the bill’s champions. 

State Sen. Dennis Bradley (D) was expected to be in charge of floor debate, but he was arrested earlier in the day on fraud charges. Lawmakers announced later in the day that state Sen. Catherine Osten (D), instead, would lead the debate, which ultimately lasted about an hour. 

“Relative to gaming we are [unique.] We operate gaming that has set a standard for gaming in New England, that is the best in the world,” Osten said during her remarks, referring to the state of Connecticut.  

The Connecticut House passed identical legislation last week. The measure now goes to Governor Ned Lamont (D) for his signature. A formality because he negotiated the deal earlier this year. Osten speculated Lamont could sign the legislation immediately.

Details Of The Connecticut Sports Betting Legislation

The legislation authorizes both the Connecticut Lottery and Mohegan Sun as well as Foxwoods Casino — two tribal-run casinos in the state for more than 20 years — to offer online gambling in the state. Sports betting apps like BetMGM would be licensed through the state lottery or one of the two tribal casinos.

Osten referenced the need for the legislation because of how long the existing gambling regulations have been in place, without revisions.

“This bill …. creates an update to gaming that we have not done since the 1990s,” she said, noting they have tried in numerous legislative sessions in the past to amend, and have failed.

In addition to online sports betting, the two tribal casinos will be able to open retail sportsbooks at their casino. The Connecticut Lottery also will operate sports betting at 15 additional retail locations within the state, including locations in Hartford and Bridgeport.

Sports betting on in-state college teams is restricted, similar to  New Jersey and Virginia. There is a caveat for the NCAA basketball tournament. While betting on in-state schools such as the University of Connecticut, would be barred during the normal season, it would be permissible to wager on them should they make it to March Madness.

Next Steps For Sports Betting In Connecticut

Since Connecticut’s deal involves Native American casinos, the Department of Interior must sign off on it, as outlined in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo, is the first Native American to hold a cabinet position. 

DOI approved a compact involving the state of Arizona and tribes earlier this week extending gaming opportunities in the state. DOI has 45 days to approve the deal once Lamont signs the bill.

Unlike Florida, whose compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida has raised warning flags it might not pass IGRA scrutiny, Connecticut’s deal is expected to gain approval. 

Bob Jarvis, who specializes in gambling law and is a professor at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, said Connecticut also has demographics on its side.  

Florida has lots of people who are against gambling (and expanded gambling), as well as a constitutional amendment that got passed because of these folks.  Connecticut doesn’t have this sort of organized opposition,” he said in an email to Gaming Today, explaining some of the differences between the two states. 

Osten said she hoped sports betting would be in place by the fall, once all the necessary approvals are in place. 

Amber Hoffman contributed to this report. 

 

 

 

About the Author

Mary M. Shaffrey

Mary Shaffrey is an award-winning journalist who co-authored "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Government." She has spent more than 20 years covering government, both at the state and federal level. As a fan of the Baltimore Orioles and the Providence College Friars she feels cursed. Luckily she is a hockey mom too so her spirits aren't totally shot.

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