Connecticut Democrats May Opt For Sports Betting, Cannabis For Infrastructure Cash Over Increasing Tolls

Posted on: November 14, 2019, 03:34h. 

Last updated on: November 14, 2019, 04:24h.

Democrats in Connecticut’s state senate could resuscitate sports betting legislation while adding legalized cannabis to the mix in an effort to raise revenue for Gov. Ned Lamont’s (D) transportation plan.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont wants transportation cash and his fellow Democrats may turn to sports betting over tolls to get it. (Image: Hartford Courant)

In July, state lawmakers from both parties introduced “An Act Concerning Jobs In and Revenue From the Gaming Industry,” which featured provisions for a sweeping gaming expansion in the Constitution State, including a new land-based casino in Bridgeport, online wagering, and sports betting.

That effort stalled, and as recently as late October, it was believed sports wagering wouldn’t be discussed in Connecticut’s special legislative session. However, Lamont is searching for funding for a 10-year, $21.3 billion transportation scheme he believes can be financed by introducing 14 new tolls on bridges throughout the state.

With an election year looming in 2020, state Democrats don’t like the idea of having to explain new tolls to constituents, and are looking for alternative funding sources for the infrastructure plan. Connecticut Republicans pitched an $18 billion transportation effort that doesn’t include new taxes or tolls. But it doesn’t mention any form of gaming as a revenue source.

We agree that our Rainy Day Fund is currently at a historically high level and that the bipartisan budget passed in 2017 established policies to promote future fiscal stability,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney (D-New Haven) in a statement. “We are conferring with the Office of Fiscal Analysis and analyzing the numbers in the Senate Republican plan.”

Previously, Lamont’s proposal called for 53 new tolls. But that number was pared to 14 when members of his own party balked at that initial figure.

Toll Votes Aren’t There

It’s clear that the votes aren’t there for more tolls around the Nutmeg State. But Lamont is skeptical about the tally being adequate to pass cannabis or sports wagering bills. Nor does he think that even when combined, marijuana and sports betting could raise the $320 million annually the new tolls would generate.

Politicians in other states have pitched and won voter approval for sports wagering under the auspices of creating revenue for much-needed projects. But in some of those cases, it has been proven additional funding will be needed.

Estimates released earlier this year indicate sports betting would generate $30 million to $40 million annually for Connecticut coffers.

Sports wagering efforts in the state have been stymied because there are multiple stakeholders involved. The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes – operators of the state’s two casinos – have gaming exclusivity pacts with the state. But when it comes to sports wagering, the Connecticut Lottery and off-track-betting entities want in on the action.

Heavy Lift

In order for sports wagering to be passed soon in Connecticut, it might need to be separated from the aforementioned gaming proposal into standalone legislation, an idea that hasn’t gained much traction as of yet.

Two of three states that border the Constitution State – New York and Rhode Island – permit sports betting, and nearby New Jersey has rapidly become one of the sports gambling meccas of the US.