State and tribes amended their compacts

It appears that online casino and sports betting are closer to becoming a reality in Connecticut. On Thursday, the state House of Representatives passed HB06451 easily by a 34-6 vote, sending the bill over to the Senate.

On Thursday, Governor Ned Lamont tweeted his thanks to the House for the “bipartisan vote” that will “bring Connecticut’s gaming, lottery, and sports betting market into the future.”

Connecticut is home to two major casinos, Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, so any hesitancy on expanding gambling in the state is not necessarily some sort of aversion to the pastime. In fact, it was actually Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, or more specifically, their owners, the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes, that were the potential holdups to get online gambling and sports betting off the ground.

Based on their compacts with the state, the tribes have the rights to Connecticut’s gambling industry. While that has only included brick-and-mortar casino gambling until now, the tribes believed that their compacts would naturally include sports betting. After all, it’s gambling.

Governor Lamont and the state wanted the CT Lottery to be involved, so negotiations were required. In the end, the tribes did agree to a compromise. The CT Lottery could also offer sports betting at as many as 15 retail locations, as well as online, but the tribes got to extend their land-based duopoly to the online casino space.

Lottery will find its operator quickly

The lottery sent out Requests for Qualification and received 15 responses from interested companies by the April 23 deadline. On May 10, it began accepting formal proposals to be the lottery’s sports betting operator. Potential partners have until this Thursday to submit their bids. The lottery will choose the winner on June 10, the day after the state legislature adjourns.

As is the case for other states in the process of trying to launch a sports betting industry, Connecticut hopes to flip the switch by the fall, which is when the football season starts.

Online poker is a bit of a question mark. It is not explicitly mentioned as something separate from online casino, but it was not explicitly excluded, either, so it is very possible that the tribes will include it under the online casino umbrella and eventually offer the games. Both Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods have popular physical poker rooms, so they certainly have the brand.

Connecticut, though, is a small state, so it would likely be difficult to sustain an online poker industry, especially one with multiple online poker rooms (though the state is among the highest when it comes to median income). It would almost certainly have to link up with other states to increase the size of the player pool. Nevada, New Jersey, and Delware are already networked. Pennsylvania and Michigan allow interstate poker compacts, but neither has cemented any yet.

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