Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont struck a tough blow against the tribal owned Foxwoods Resort and Mohegan Sun casinos this week with a statement backing a broader introduction of legalized sports betting in the state.
The move threatens legislation that would grant the tribes rights to take sporting wagers, open a casino in Bridgeport and offer virtual casino games on smartphones and computers on an exclusive basis. Lamont’s preferred option is to extend those rights to the state lottery and off-track betting operators.
The statement, issued by Director of Communications Max Reiss, read: “For years now, Connecticut’s gaming economy has been declining and stuck in litigation while our surrounding states continue to expand and prosper.
“Last legislative session, the governor worked to achieve a comprehensive solution to Connecticut’s ongoing gaming quagmire. Unfortunately, neither tribe accepted that proposal.”
He added: “This legislative session, there are two proposals on the table. One of the proposals would authorize only the tribes to conduct sports betting and virtually all other forms of online gaming both on and off their tribal reservations.
“The other proposal would authorize the tribes to conduct sports betting on their tribal reservations and also would permit the tribes, the Connecticut Lottery, and the state’s existing off-track betting operators to conduct sports betting outside the tribes’ reservations.”
Governor Lamont has opted to support the latter approach because, said Reiss, it is simpler, focuses exclusively on sports betting, and is therefore more achievable in the current short legislative session.
He continued: “It also builds upon the state’s existing partnership with the tribes, is more likely to withstand legal challenges from third party competitors, and promotes a fair and competitive sports betting market outside the tribes’ reservations.”
Reiss emphasized that while the governor is committed to a fair resolution that brings Connecticut’s gaming economy into the 21st century, it must happen with the minimum of legal intervention.
“He wants to sign a sports betting bill into law over the next few months. 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,” he cautioned.
The Governor can, however, expect some tribal pushback on his more inclusive approach. Mohegan Chief of Staff Chuck Bunnell, quoted in the CTMirror, said: “We would be forced to oppose that. We believe we have exclusive rights to sports betting. We would be forced to litigate.”