Connecticut Lawmakers Urge Gov. Lamont to Allow Tribes to Operate Online Casinos, Sports Betting

Posted on: May 15, 2020, 12:02h. 

Last updated on: May 14, 2020, 03:25h.

Thirteen Connecticut lawmakers representing the southeastern part of the state are calling on Governor Ned Lamont (D) to immediately allow the state’s two tribes to operate online casinos.

Mohegan Sun Foxwoods Connecticut casinos
Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun remain closed, but 13 state lawmakers in Connecticut want them open online. (Image: Harold Hanks/The Westerly Sun)

Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, respectively owned and operated by the Mohegan Tribe and Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, have been closed since March 16. They did so of their own accord to help the state slow the spread of COVID-19.

Now, the Native American groups want a little something in return, and lawmakers are stepping in to help.

You have been a leader in keeping us safe. We urge you to be that same leader in reopening our tourism and entertainment economy with the same focus,” the letter dated May 13 to Lamont read. “That can be done by modernizing Connecticut’s gaming policies through executive orders.”

Legally, Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods can reopen whenever they wish, as they are free of state orders from Lamont. However, both tribes said this week that their large integrated resorts won’t be open in time for the Memorial Day weekend.

Modernizing Policies

The Connecticut lawmakers have several requests for the governor. The politicians say Lamont should engage with the tribes to formulate a plan to assist the thousands of workers who have been laid off from the two casinos during the statewide shutdown of nonessential businesses.

By executive orders, the lawmakers say Lamont should allow the tribes to operate internet gaming, as well as mobile sports betting.

“Allow our state to compete with its neighbors, right now!” the letter demanded. “It is time to put aside the political disagreements of the past and to focus on what we can do now to energize our state’s economy.”

“Many of our daily interactions have gone virtual. Gaming police should be no different,” the lawmakers concluded. Lamont has previously rebuffed calls for the tribes to operate online gambling.

“Authorizing online gaming and enabling consumers to more easily access gambling is a significant policy decision that has not yet been embraced or acted up by our legislature,” said Lamont. “Doing so at a time when so many Connecticut residents are in financial distress would be a particularly significant policy decision to make without legislative approval.”

The lawmakers are additionally requesting that Lamont allow the Connecticut Lottery to operate online Keno and internet scratch-off games. Rhode Island recently did just that, joining eight other states with online lotteries.

Communication Breakdown

State Sen. Cathy Osten’s (D-Sprague) district includes the tribes’ reservations. One of the 13 state lawmakers who signed the letter to Lamont, she says her region’s economy relies heavily on Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods.

We’re not saying the tribes shouldn’t have closed down,” explained Osten. “What we’re saying is there has to be a way to ameliorate this situation. It’s like the governor’s not understanding what’s happening here.”

Lamont seemed surprise to hear this week that the tribes were considering reopening their casino resorts in the coming weeks. “That strikes me as pretty soon,” the first-term governor said, adding that he’d “like to talk to the sovereign nations.”