HARTFORD, CT — Outgoing Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy invited legislative leaders to his office to let them know he is close to a deal with the two tribal nations to allow sports betting in Connecticut, however, he needs to know whether to proceed or pull the plug.
Legislative leaders said they came to be briefed and declined comment as they left Malloy’s state Capitol office Thursday.
Any plan Malloy reaches with the tribes would have to be approved by the General Assembly and then the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The BIA process will take at least 90 days.
“I reported to them that I think it’s possible a deal could be reached and legislative action could be called upon,” Malloy said.
He needs to know whether they want him to proceed.
“This is more about maintaining market share,” Malloy said. “And perhaps capturing a portion of the illegal gaming revenue that currently is generated by people and no one is paying taxes on it.”
He said other states don’t need to get BIA approval before moving forward with sports betting in their states.
He said if the legislature doesn’t want to take it up then he doesn’t want to waste his time with the negotiations. He said the legislative leaders need to let him know by next week.
“I’m not advertising for additional work,” Malloy said. “Having said that because of the gaps in time and the head start other folks will get I think it’s a dangerous proposition.”
In May, the Supreme Court struck down a 1992 law that barred most states from legalizing sports betting. Unable to pass legislation before May 9, the General Assembly and Malloy are now trying to figure out what it would look like in Connecticut.
Connecticut’s situation is unique in that it has two federally recognized tribes that essentially have the exclusivity over gaming in the state. They share slot revenue with the state through a compact that was first negotiated by former Gov. Lowell P. Weicker.
Malloy and legislative leaders agree as governor he has the executive authority to negotiate the compacts with the tribes. But the agreement must also be approved by the General Assembly.
“Other state are getting into this fairly rapidly,” Malloy said.
New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Massachusetts could beat Connecticut and “they don’t have the BIA issue that we have,” Malloy said.
The tribes would not be the only ones who would be able to offer sports betting in Connecticut. There’s the off-track-betting facilities run by Sportech PLC and the Connecticut Lottery. However, they don’t require federal approval to proceed.