Connecticut Town Opposes Sports Betting Kiosks at Local Restaurant, Plans Shelved
Residents of quiet seaside town Westbrook, Connecticut (population ~7000), came out in force last week to oppose the installation of 12 sports betting terminals at a restaurant in their community.
A public meeting to discuss the proposals on March 27 drew a “larger than usual crowd, with members of the public overwhelmingly arguing against the application,” according to local reports,
Local restaurateur Walter Bartkiewicz, owner of the Dead Eye Saloon in Westbrook, argued that the betting terminals were a needed addition to keep his revenues up during the tourist off-season. Without them, he said, he might not be able to keep his venue open year-round.
His application received some support from local business owners in written form. However, feedback at the community meeting was mostly negative.
Sports betting has been fully legal in Connecticut since 2021. Restaurants and bars such as the Dead Eye Saloon are entitled to offer sports betting kiosks to customers who are old enough, as long at they meet strict requirements. One of those rules requires a minimum of 12 devices, and others focus on security to prevent money laundering or underage gambling.
Dead Set Against
The Westbrook City Planning Commission originally planned to approve Dead Eye Saloon’s application. However, after the public consultation, the plans have been put on hold for up to two months.
Planning Commission members first argued that many residents in town already bet on sports online from their homes, and that encouraging them out to spend at a local business would be beneficial. Plus, of course, they cited the increased tax revenues.
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Locals were then invited to the floor. Many of them were worried about the potential increase in traffic, and even crimes. Many said this could put pressure on the town’s small police force of just two full-time officers, as reported by the Connecticut Examiner.
Other residents expressed they simply didn’t feel 12 sports betting kiosks fit with the family friendly seaside town feel of Westbrook.
“I just want the board to think about this. This is not what Westbrook is about,” said one resident.
Restaurant owner Bartkiewicz then put forward his case and attempted to counter residents’ concerns. He told them the risk of crime would be minimal, with no cash handled in the kiosks on premises, and only electronic transactions available.
Rules and Regulations
In the end, the Planning Commission announced Dead Eye Saloon’s sports betting kiosks will be put on hold. But not because of public opinion.
After a detailed review, it turned out that the town’s local regulation doesn’t specifically cover sports betting kiosks. So the application is now pending a full legal examination to determine if any laws need to be updated before it goes ahead.
“We would all love, because we live in this community, to just sort of go along with what the general feeling is,” said Planning Commission Chairman Harry Rupernicker Jr. “But it’s not good zoning, unfortunately.”