If the state moves forward with Internet gambling, at least one of the two Indian tribes believes the state will need to create a new compact to make it to happen, and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was unequivocal in his statements Monday that it will happen.
Bruce “Two Dogs” Bozsum, chairman of the Mohegans, said last week that the current compact would not be directly impacted by Internet gaming, “However, the compact does give the Tribe the exclusive right to casino games in Connecticut.”
The Mohegans and Mashantucket Pequot Tribes have a compact with the state that gives them exclusive gambling rights in the state. The tribes then pay the state 25 percent of the revenue they receive from video slot machines under a deal brokered in 1993 by former Gov. Lowell Weicker.
“We believe that any new law that would allow internet gambling here would require a separate agreement with the state, and for that reason, I have been in discussions with the Governor’s office,” Bozsum said Friday in a statement.
It was still unclear Monday whether the tribes or the state Lottery Corporation would be given the rights to Internet gambling.
“I think we’re looking at everything,“ Malloy said Monday when asked about which entity would be given the rights to the future Internet gaming enterprise. “I don’t have anything to report at the moment.“
What is quite clear is that “Internet gambling is coming to Connecticut. Period,” Malloy said.
Last month the U.S. Justice Department removed any ambiguity on an old law that had previously been interpreted to prohibit intrastate Internet gambling. In light of that decision, there will be Internet gambling in Connecticut regardless of what the state government does, Malloy said.
“The Internet is the Internet. You don’t turn off the Internet at any state’s borders. It’s an impossibility,” he said. “The nature of the decision is if it’s allowed in any state, it will appear in every state.”
There has been no indication that the Justice Department or Congress has any intention of overturning the decision, he said. In fact, the department may have made it because Congress was close to passing a law that would have allowed Internet gambling, the governor said.
But Malloy doesn’t want anyone to misinterpret his statements as support for gambling.
“I grew up in an America where there was one place to gamble and I kind of liked that America in those days,” he said.
However, since the start of the lottery in Connecticut, gaming revenue has helped fund good causes like education, he said. Tens of thousands of people also employed because of the state’s casinos, he said.
“We have a stake in protecting that industry, those two casinos and their operations, from the challenges that will be presented by other states,” he said.
New Jersey is already in a position to pass applicable legislation in a matter of weeks, Malloy said. Connecticut must consider what other states are planning because “once it happens, it’s universally available in the United States.”
Though there is no way to stop gambling websites from being available in Connecticut, so the state must decide whether it wants to be a part of it and make money on it, he said.
But not all lawmakers are as willing to embrace the idea of Internet gambling as Malloy.
Sen. Andrea Stillman, D-Waterford, said last week that she’s a longtime opponent of expanding gambling in Connecticut.
She said she thinks there’s enough opportunity to gamble in the state between the lottery games, off-track-betting facilities, and the two casinos.
She said before the legislature approves any Internet gambling it needs to look closely at research on Internet gambling and the social implications. She said she has no idea how much support there is amongst her colleagues for expanding gambling.
Instead, she said she’s focused on looking at job creation and good paying jobs that move the state forward and doesn’t see any opportunities for that in Internet gambling.
“It doesn’t create any jobs and it can create a lot of problems,” Stillman cautioned.
Sen. Andrew Roraback, R-Goshen, said he’s also an opponent of gambling.
He said he doesn’t know if the state could move forward with the measure unless it has the blessing of the two tribes.
“In my opinion it’s the state looking to raise revenue when the best way to do that is create an environment in the state where business flourishes and people are employed,” Roraback said last week. “It’s a sorry state of affairs when the state focuses on an enterprise that doesn’t create wealth.”
He said Internet gambling preys on human weakness.
He said all he can think of when he envisions Internet gambling is the “desperate soul sitting in front of his computer screen for hours on end losing money.”
Hugh McQuaid contributed to this report.