Connecticut House Approves Sports Betting, iGaming Bill

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Connecticut sports betting is on the horizon as the state’s House approved a gambling agreement struck earlier between the governor and the two tribes.

House Bill 6451 was passed late Thursday night by the Connecticut House of Representatives, in a 122-21 bipartisan vote. The bill entitled “An Act of Concerning Gaming Agreements with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and the Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut,” -the state’s two federally recognized tribes- would bring legalized retail and online gaming to Connecticut.

The legislation now heads to the upper chamber for concurrence nearly two months after Gov. Ned Lamont reached a new gaming agreement with the tribes in March. Following the senatorial approval, Lamont is expected to sign Connecticut sports betting into law for the possible launch ahead of the NFL season in Sep.

What Did Lamont Say on Thursday?

The governor thanked the lower chamber for the “careful consideration and bipartisan approval of legislation” that, he said, would bring Connecticut’s gaming, lottery, and sports wagering market into the future, positioning the Nutmeg State as a leader. In a statement Thursday night, Ned also expressed his appreciation to the co-chairs of the Public Safety Committee for their partnership for working with his administrative staff to draft and move the bill through the process.

“I look forward to this measure’s swift passage in the upper chamber so we can initiate the federal process of ensuring this legislation and agreement is authorized.”

The new gaming agreement must be approved by the US Department of Interior before it can become law.

What Changes Will Legislation Bring?

Connecticut sports betting bill will authorize the two tribes to run online and retail sportsbooks. In addition, the Connecticut Lottery Corporation will also operate online sports betting, along with 15 retail locations around the Nutmeg State.

The state will levy a 13.75% tax for sports betting and DFS, and 18% for iGaming over the first five years from the launch, and 20% afterward.

HB 6451, which bans in-state college betting, will make Connecticut the sixth state with online casinos, joining New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Michigan, and Delaware.

Although the bill legalizes Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) in Connecticut, it had not been regulated. The companies interested in offering DFS, like FanDuel and DraftKings, will have to face obstructive licensing procedures while the regulators dabbling with regulations. The process could delay DFS for months.

In addition, legalized sports betting could draw an additional $30 million overall in the next fiscal year in the state’s budget. By the next five years, Connecticut’s gaming industry could reach $83 million annually.

House Approval, Culmination of Years of Work

The House approval of Connecticut sports betting legislation was hailed by a majority of stakeholders, with proponents looking for launch by the NFL season in September. However, much depends on the swiftness of the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs at the US Department of Interior, where the bill will head for a final review after clearing all stages in the state.

Rep. Maria Horn, the co-chair of the General Assembly’s Public Safety Committee, said, “This bill that we see tonight is the culmination of many, many years of labor heading in many directions in Connecticut.”

Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot tribe, also expressed excitement as the state lawmakers wished his years-long wish to see legalized sports betting under a new deal.

Butler said gaming is more than business for his tribe, “it is a means by which we rebuild our nation, educate our children, and take care of our elders.”

He added that the legislation would enable the Mashantucket tribe to fulfill its obligations for generations to come.

Meanwhile, Mohegan Tribal Council’s head James Gessner Jr also expressed somewhat identical views, saying that modernizing the gambling industry would help Connecticut “keep pace” with neighboring states. It would protect jobs, besides generating tax revenues for the state as well as the tribes, Gessner added.

Though majority stakeholders looked forward to sports betting in Connecticut, some lawmakers voted against the bill. The dissenting votes were mainly from the East Windsor area, which will lose property taxes following the deal.

Also, Sportech, the state-licensed parimutuel operator, objected to the new gaming agreement, while seeking a separate agreement with the state.

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