Is CT Sports Betting A Done Deal Following Budget Inclusion?

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont has filed legislation that could make CT sports betting a reality this year.

Lamont included sports betting revenues in his budget on Wednesday. To make that happen, he also filed a bill to expand state tribal gaming compacts to include sports betting and online casino.

“Our neighboring states are moving forward with sports betting and i-gaming, and Connecticut should not leave these opportunities for other states to benefit from our inaction,” Lamont said in his budget address.

“My administration has been in active negotiations with our tribal partners to bring the state’s gaming economy into the digital age. And I am submitting legislation which reflects what I believe to be the best bet in ending this stalemate of inaction in a way which is in the best interest for the entire state.”

What it means for CT sports betting

Lamont appears to be essentially acquiescing to the CT tribes. They have long made it clear they won’t let Connecticut online sports betting happen without them in charge. They have exclusive gaming rights in Connecticut in exchange for 25% of slot revenue and claim those rights extend to sports.

After years of negotiation and legal opinions, Lamont is apparently accepting that.

The Governor’s budget proposal assumes $47.3 million in FY 2023 from the expansion of gaming.

Turnaround for Lamont?

As recently as last year, Lamont indicated support for competition in the Connecticut sports betting market. Spokesman Max Reiss told the Hartford Courant:

“[Lamont] wants to sign a sports betting bill into law over the next few months,” Reiss said. “Any such proposal, however, must be designed to avoid and withstand endless legal challenges, include multiple, competing mobile platforms off the tribes’ reservations, and build upon the existing footprints of all of the state’s existing gaming operators.”

The stakeholders in the debate took part in another legislative hearing last month. That meeting produced seemingly as little progress as any over the years.

Rep. Kurt Vail said in that hearing:

“I know this: I’ve been up here seven years on this committee. We’ve talked about this over and over and we end up with nothing because everyone takes their ball, goes in the corner and refuses to give an inch.

“And here we have, again it’s what, 2021? 2015 we were talking about this and we have nothing. So somebody needs to give up something and I think there’s a way for everybody to win.”

The home stretch?

Even the inclusion of sports betting in the budget is a big deal.

“When gambling expansion is a line-item in the budget, it means Governor Lamont is committed to get a deal done,” said gaming industry lobbyist John Pappas.

“Throughout this entire process the tribes have made clear that retaining their exclusivity is a priority. I don’t think the proposed revenue will materialize unless that is part of the agreement. Internet betting in Connecticut is going to have to be a limited market to start, or no market at all.”

What’s next for CT sports betting?

CT legislators still need to approve a bill to actually legalize and regulate sports betting. However, that is already in motion via SB 146, which has 17 sponsors from both chambers. There is a competing bill, SB 570, that lacks the clout of SB 146.

On the face of it, the big winners appear to be DraftKings and Kambi.

DraftKings has a deal to run betting for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, the owner of Foxwoods Resort Casino. Meanwhile, Kambi has a deal with the Mohegan.

As it stands, the two would have the market of around 3.6 million people to themselves.

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