In the state of Connecticut, the two Indian tribes that also run the two casinos in the state – the Mashantucket Pequot tribe and the Mohegan tribe – would be going at it tooth and nail for customers to their own properties. If there is one thing that can bridge competition, however, is a new revenue stream. As such, the two tribes have laid aside any differences they might have and joined forces to advocate for online poker in the state’s legislature.
In a hearing last week in the Connecticut General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Public Safety and Security, representatives of the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes were in attendance to offer their viewpoints on any online gaming for the state. In written testimony to the committee, Foxwoods Resort Casino – which is owned by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe – stated, “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.” They believe that online gaming encompasses “games like slots, table games, and poker games on mobile or desktop environments.”
Another thing that the Mashantucket Pequot elders see is the dollar signs that are behind passing online gaming legislation. “Based on our estimates coupled with a pragmatic tax rate, over the course of five years Connecticut stands to collect roughly $87M in tax revenue from iGaming, at a rate starting at roughly $14.25M in Year One, escalating to roughly $20M in Year Five,” their testimony stated.
The Mohegan Tribe – owners of the Mohegan Sun casino in the state – also were looking at the bottom line when they introduced their testimony. “I believe that if the two tribes are allowed to operate online gaming and sport wagering, they will generate more than $120 million in revenue to the state of Connecticut in the first five years alone,” the testimony from the Mohegan Tribe stated.
What could be the driver of the discussion regarding online gaming is the potential for online sports betting to become a reality. The U. S. Supreme Court is expected to render any day a decision regarding New Jersey’s lawsuit against the NCAA and the legality of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992, which prohibited individual states from being able to offer sports betting (Nevada, Montana, Delaware and Oregon were grandfathered the right). After hearing arguments on the case last December, the nine justices of the Supreme Court will decide whether the federal government has the right to arbitrarily ban sports betting by the individual states.
The decision regarding New Jersey v. NCAA is one that could have massive ramifications not only for casinos across the U. S. but also for online gaming. If the Supreme Court finds in favor of New Jersey, casinos nationwide would be able to open sports books for their customers. On top of that (and because of the 2011 decision by then-President Barack Obama’s Department of Justice that opened online gaming and poker on a statewide level), states would then also be allowed to offer online sports betting, albeit on an intra-state basis, with PASPA overturned.
There is also the possibility that the Supreme Court may decide the case but only on a limited basis. The Court could look at New Jersey alone and decide that PASPA does not apply to them, based on the state’s history of casino gaming, but that the law applies to the remainder of the states (even though they may now have casino gaming, like Connecticut). It would then be up to individual states to pursue the overturning of PASPA on a case-by-case basis rather than a sweeping overturn of the 1992 law.
Sports betting is being viewed by some as the “in” that online poker and casino gaming need to get a foothold in some states. If a state were to allow for online sports betting, the common wisdom is that they would also be able to allow for online poker and/or casino gaming in the same swing. There are others, however, that point out how sports betting has become overwhelmingly accepted by most individuals while things like casino gaming and poker still have a stigma attached to them.
The two tribes in Connecticut coming together to advocate for online gaming overall is a huge step forward. Connecticut officials have been examining the issue for years and could be one of the few states that could join Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware in the fraternity of states to offer intra-state online gaming and/or poker. It could all hinge on whether the U. S. Supreme Court decision on PASPA.