Connecticut has reached a turning point in its troubled relationship with gambling as the House of Representatives approved new legislation that would legalize online casino gaming, sports wagering, and lotteries. House representatives voted for the bill with an overwhelming majority of 122-21. After years of unsuccessful attempts, the bill’s House passage marks the first major change to the state’s gambling legislation since Mohegan Sun and Foxwood Resorts Casino opened in the 1990s.
The bill would enable the Connecticut Lottery Corporation (CT Lottery) and the two tribal casinos to offer virtual sports betting, online slots, and table games to any adult within the state. The move marks a significant shift in political and cultural moods in a state that held onto its blue laws until the 2010s.
With that said, the approval of the Senate and Governor Edward Lamont is also necessary before legal online betting and gaming become a reality for Connecticut residents. After the bill officially passes into law, the Department of Interior will review the amendments to Connecticut’s compact with the Mohegans and the Mashantucket Pequots, the tribal nations that operate the two landbased casinos in the state.
Supporters of the new legislation claim that Connecticut residents have been engaging in online sports betting at unauthorized sites for years. In turn, this led to an outflow of taxable money as neither the state, nor the tribes could get a piece of the action.
Representative Maria Horn embraced the move, commenting it was time for Connecticut to finally start regulating this market properly. Once the compacts with the tribes are amended, they would be able to offer in-person sports wagering and fantasy sports within their reservations along with off-reservation online gaming and betting, Representative Horn said.
As for the CT Lottery, the changes will enable it to offer online and retail sports betting. A cut of the revenue will go toward the state coffers. Online gaming will be taxed at a rate of 18% during the first five years and 20% afterward. Sports wagering revenue will incur 13.75% tax rates.
Connecticut May Pocket $83 Million from Sports Betting in the Years to Follow
Forecasts of the Connecticut Office of Fiscal Analysis estimated the state will pocket over $19 million in taxes from sports wagering and another $8.6 million from online casino gaming during the fiscal year that starts in July. Representative Horn is confident the figures could jump to $83 million in the years to follow.
Representatives of the fantasy sports sector commented that the bill’s language would render fantasy sports operations illegal in the state before the Department of Consumer Protection comes up with a licensing regime. The main worry of the Fantasy Sports and Gaming Association is that this is not going to happen before the start of the NFL season this fall.
The Association urged the Connecticut General Assembly to change the legislation’s wording so that locals can continue enjoying fantasy sports games. Otherwise, paid fantasy sports within the Nutmeg State may shut down throughout the NFL football season.
The bill also includes provisions on consumer protection measures. Under an agreement between the Lamont administration and the tribal nations, each casino operator must contribute $500,000 per year toward problem gambling programs. The CT Lottery’s contribution will increase to $3.3 million.
Also featured in the bill are various provisions for safeguards that will enable Connecticut residents to gamble more responsibly. These include reminders of the betting sessions’ duration, time-off periods, and self-exclusion. Such measures would hopefully nip problematic behavior in the bud before it goes too far, Representative Horn said. Betting on Connecticut college and university teams will be prohibited, with very few exceptions for the NCAA tournament play.