The progress towards legal sports betting in the state of Connecticut has been dogged by legal and political problems, but as 2020 draws to a close, there are signs that the issue may be resolved in the next few weeks and that sports betting may be introduced in 2021.
Two recent developments suggest that sports betting is on the way. The first is the deal struck by the Mashantucket Pequot Indians, who currently operate the state’s Foxwoods Casino, with DraftKings Sportsbook, for the right for the latter to provide daily fantasy sports and online sports betting.
The second is an apparent change of heart from the state’s Governor, Ned Lamont.
According to reports in the local media, Lamont appears to have given up on his plan for an open sports betting market and is preparing to agree to offer exclusivity to tribal interests.
The Mashantucket Pequot and the Mohegan Indians currently have exclusive gaming rights in the state of Connecticut: a deal through which they agree to pay 25% of slot revenue. It has been their contention that those rights included sports betting. Lamont had initially disagreed, which led to an impasse, but his comments in a local newspaper suggest he has changed his mind.
Addressing the subject in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, which he said has revealed how much of the world is heading online, he said that Connecticut should not be left behind.
The state isn’t quite surrounded by states where sports betting is legal, but events are heading that way. To the east, Rhode Island recently opened its betting market to online customers, while both Massachusetts and New York are moving towards online legalization.
Optimism for 2021
The positive comments haven’t just come from the Governor. Rep. Sean Scanlon, the incoming co-chair of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee, has stated that sports betting would be legalized in the state in 2021.
Representatives of the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Indians have also spoken positively about the expansion in the local press. The Tribal Chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot tribe, Rodney Butler, said that they had been in conversations with the Governor, and the Mohegan Nation Chief of Staff, Chuck Bunnell, echoed this optimism:
End of Joint Plans
Another indication of positive communication across the divide on a previously heated issue was the reported end of plans to create a joint casino. A plan to build the joint Tribal Winds casino has been suspended, officially due to the pandemic.
The plan would have put a casino just a 15-mile drive on the I-91 from MGM Springfield in the state of Massachusetts, with the idea of providing a venue for Connecticut residents to head to without leaving the state – and taking their casino and tax revenue with them.
Lamont had pushed for the tribes to abandon the idea and to focus on expansion in other areas of the state, while MGM Resorts had waged a long fight against the project, which led to a federal lawsuit filed in court against the US Department of the Interior.
While dropping the project wasn’t a prerequisite for progressing with online sports betting in Connecticut, Lamont welcomed the decision in an interview with a local media outlet, saying that they were working on an accommodation that would bring sports betting and online gaming to the state.