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Connecticut Declines to Pass Sports Betting and iGaming Legislation Days Before PASPA Repeal

Individual states are now free to legalize sports betting as they see fit, but Connecticut won’t be entering the fray this year.

When the clock struck midnight on May 9, the Connecticut Legislature’s 2018 session officially came to a close – leaving a sports betting bill to die on the proverbial vine.

House Bill 5307 would’ve required the state’s Commissioner of Consumer Protection (CCP) to craft regulations regarding sports wagering in the event that a federal ban is lifted. Connecticut did pass a sports betting framework last year, but the Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) requested additional legislation to clarify and direct those efforts.

HB-5307 resulted from that request, but while the bill was reported favorably out of several committees to the floor, the May 9 deadline came and went without further action.

House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz (D-30) foretold the bill’s fate during an April press conference, telling reporters that time would likely run out due to a host of logistical issues:

“I don’t know that we’re going to finish anything up this session. There’s a lot of moving parts and not having a comprehensive plan makes it more difficult. I’m not sure where it lands.”

Minority Leader Themis Klarides (R-113) offered a similarly pessimistic prediction on HB-5307:

“I think it will be a heavy lift to get done in the next couple of weeks.”

Among the hurdles Aresimowicz and Klarides alluded to is Connecticut’s longstanding compact with two federally recognized tribes – the Mashantucket Pequot and the Mohegan – both of which pay hundreds of millions in a slot revenue sharing agreement predicated on the exclusive right to operate gaming.

As part of a public hearing held by the Public Safety and Security committee in March, both tribes offered their support for sports betting legalization – provided they get their cut.

Seth Young – executive director of online gaming for the Mashantucket Pequot’s Foxwoods Resort Casino – submitted written testimony calling for regulated sports betting, along with online gambling:

“I am here to express the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation’s support for legal sports gambling – both on-reservation and online – and more broadly, for regulated online gambling.”

A bill which would’ve legalized iGaming in the state was also left to languish with the legislative session’s end.

Avi Alroy – vice president of interactive gaming for the Mohegan Sun casino – also wrote to the committee expressing support for the sports betting bill:

“To clarify, I believe that the state of Connecticut will benefit from both online casino gaming and sport wagering as it will reduce unregulated bets that are done locally and offshore, and increase state revenues.”

In response to the tribes’ assertion that their gaming compact should also include sports wagering, Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen issued a statement which provided a starkly different assessment:

“It is our opinion that if sports betting were to become lawful in Connecticut, the Tribes would not have an exclusive right under the existing Compacts and MOUs to offer it … Sports betting is not listed as an authorized game.

By contrast, for example, pari-mutuel betting on horse and dog racing and jai alai games are authorized games. The exclusion of sports betting from the specific list of authorized games is compelling evidence that the Compacts do not presently authorize it …”

Amendments to the Compacts would be necessary to authorize the Tribe’s sports betting … Thus, our opinion is that the Compacts do not presently authorize the Tribes to conduct sports betting on their reservations. Nor are we aware of any other federal or state law that would be a basis for the Tribes to assert an exclusive right over sports betting.”

With the tribes and Jensen seemingly at a stalemate, Connecticut will wait until at least 2019 to join New Jersey and other regional neighbors in regulating sports betting.