Connecticut Sports Betting, Online Gaming in Race to Launch for 2021-22 NFL Season

Posted on: March 26, 2021, 08:53h. 

Last updated on: March 26, 2021, 02:45h.

Connecticut’s legislature and its two tribal operators are targeting this fall and the NFL season for the launch of sports betting and online gaming in the state.

Connecticut sports betting
Mashantucket Pequot tribal chairman Rodney Butler addresses the press outside Norwich City Hall on Thursday. (Image: Sean D Elliot/The Day)

Last week, the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes reached a deal with Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont that will allow gambling expansion for the tribes in return for increased revenues for the state. The tribes own the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods resorts, respectively.

The legislature now needs to pass a set of bills that will authorize amendments to the tribes’ compacts with the state. Having passed the Public Safety Committee on Thursday, the legislation is expected to go to the House floor for a vote in around two weeks.

Fall Target Achievable

Once fully approved by both chambers, it will need to be signed off by the US Interior Department. That’s a process that is likely to take 60 to 90 days, according to Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation.

“The goal is to be placing bets on sports by this NFL season,” Butler told reporters at a press event in Norwich Wednesday. “And then, from the back end, from a technology perspective, we’re both ready to launch.”

Lamont said he hoped the legislature would help to expedite the process. He feels the fall target is achievable.

I want the legislature to move this thing forward as fast as we can — a good clean bill, simple and ready to go. I think we have some folks down at the Department of Interior ready to move this along,” he said. “Why not? Let’s get going for this fall.”

Under the terms of the deal, the two operators will share 18 percent of online casino revenues with the state for the first five years, increasing to 20 percent thereafter. Sports betting will be taxed at a rate of 13.75 percent. Lamont has called it “win-win.”

East Windsor Loses Out

Not everyone is delighted about the new agreement, though. Officials in the town of East Windsor, for one, won’t be cheering on the legislation.

The two tribes had planned to build a satellite casino in the town, which is close to the border with Massachusetts. The plan was a defensive move to deflect competition from MGM’s new casino in Springfield, Massachusetts, about 12 miles away.

But the East Windsor casino was collateral damage in the new compact agreement.

Since East Windsor is not part of a tribal reservation, the legislature first had to pass a law to authorize the casino. MGM sued, arguing that there should have been a commercial, competitive bidding process. MGM also argued that the new law violated equal protection guarantees and the commerce clause in the US Constitution.

It was Lamont’s concerns about the possible illegality of the project that ultimately killed the casino, Butler said.

“For me, the commitment we’ve had to East Windsor and our belief in that project, quite frankly, was the most difficult part of agreeing to some type of delay as a part of this deal,” said Butler, adding that the tribes had sunk $20 million into the project.