Following the introduction of two gambling expansion bills within the Connecticut General Assembly, the state’s largest land-based casino operator has offered conclusive support for iGaming regulation.
As part of an open hearing on gaming issues held by the Public Safety and Security committee, Foxwoods Resort Casino deployed its executive director of online gaming to lobby for legalization. Seth Young provided written testimony to the committee’s three co-chairs – state senator Tim Larson (D-03) and Anthony Guglielmo (R-35), and state representative Joe Verrengia (D-20) – on behalf the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, owner and operator of Foxwoods.
Pursuant with House Bill 5306, introduced on February 28, the committee is currently pursuing a “Comprehensive Study of Gambling in Connecticut” – one which includes the possibility of iGaming regulation following the model successfully implemented by regional neighbor New Jersey.
Legislators in Connecticut are also considering House Bill 5307, which would legalize sports betting upon any repeal of the current federal ban.
Young told lawmakers that, while Foxwoods supports both sports betting and iGaming on principle, bringing casino games and poker online would provide greater economic benefit:
“iGaming … is a more lucrative opportunity for the state than sports gambling. As we see it, the strongest opportunity for the state is in legalizing statewide iGaming, another activity that is currently operating for Connecticut residents in the black market today.
We project the revenue opportunity for iGaming in Connecticut to be greater than the revenue opportunity for sports gambling.”
Young provided evidence from New Jersey’s thriving iGaming industry, which he told lawmakers had generated $126 million in tax revenue for the Garden State since launching in late 2013. Per Young’s testimony, Foxwoods estimates that Connecticut would generate $87 million in tax revenue through the first five years of legal iGaming.
He also pointed out that Connecticut has already opened its gambling industry to the internet, both by bringing off-track betting (OTB) operations online, and through the passage of a daily fantasy sports (DFS) law.
As a representative of Foxwoods – the second-largest land-based casino resort in the United States at 340,000 square feet – Young also tackled the “cannibalization” argument typically used by brick and mortar operators opposed to online adoption. According to Young, casinos like Foxwoods actually derive tangible benefits in the form of new patronage when their branding is made available to wider audiences online:
“There are strong ancillary benefits of a legalized, statewide online gaming program for land-based casinos, and by proxy the state of Connecticut.
iGaming has shown to be incremental – not cannibalistic – to land-based gaming revenue, with data showing that iGaming encourages increased visitation to land-based properties.”
Young once again used New Jersey as an example to prove his point, mentioning that Atlantic City’s land-based gambling industry reversed a decade of decline by growing 2.2 percent between 2016 and 2017:
“iGaming has contributed to Atlantic City’s stabilization and turnaround in a market with new casinos right over the border in Philadelphia and other neighboring states, in a similar destination-style market as we have here in Connecticut.
With this in mind, we submit that iGaming is a valuable asset that can be leveraged, with the potential ancillary benefit of increasing slot revenue to the state.”
New Jersey law requires iGaming providers, including out of state and European operators, to partner with a brick and mortar casino in order to secure the necessary licensing. Foxwoods’ primary competitor in the Connecticut market, Mohegan Sun Casino Resort, linked up with Resorts AC to launch a New Jersey-facing online platform in 2015.
Another argument used by Young concerned iGaming’s connection to job creation. Citing a study by the iDevelopment and Economic Association (IDEA), Young informed lawmakers that New Jersey’s legalization of iGaming had added an estimated 3,374 full-time jobs since 2013.