Passion and hope are at the heart of every fan’s love for the game and their team. We cheer their victories but even in the face of defeat, we never lose hope that they’ll come through.
Much like the Kansas City Chiefs’ comeback to win Super Bowl LV, Sports Betting legislation appears to be resurgent in Connecticut’s 2020 legislative session and hope rises once again that local parties can come together and deliver a positive result for Connecticut.
As CEO of Sportech, one of Connecticut’s approved licensed gaming operators, I say Let’s go! The time for legal Sports Betting in Connecticut is now and the solution is clear. But we need to stop the timeouts that are preventing us from making the goal.
Sportech’s Connecticut business – consisting of Winners OTB, MyWinners.com, and Bobby V’s – has been an upstanding partner to Connecticut since 1993, is the only gaming entity currently approved to take bets both online and in our venues across Connecticut, and already has in place the infrastructure, technology, and expertise to add Sports Betting.
In addition to Sportech, the State has two outstanding casinos, a Tribal joint venture, and the State Lottery. All these entities are capable of offering Sports Betting to consumers, providing requisite competition without a proliferation of gaming operators.
So why is Connecticut always in a timeout when it comes to Sports Betting?
The Tribes argue that they have exclusive rights to Sports Betting under existing State agreements and are focused on blocking all others from making the roster, even though they can’t play the game at this stage.
The suggestion provided is that Sports Betting is a ‘casino game.’ It is not now, nor has it ever been, classified as a casino game by the compacts, the State of Connecticut, or the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
The Tribal compacts are serious documents negotiated by serious people. Sports Betting is conspicuously absent from the compacts’ lengthy list of authorized games.
Indeed, in 2018 then-Attorney General George Jepsen confirmed that the State’s existing compacts do not provide any authority for the Tribes to conduct Sports Betting on their reservations, let alone outside of them, and noted that the existing compacts would not be affected should the State decide to award Sports Betting licenses to other entities. AG Jepsen further added that granting exclusivity to the Tribes may violate the Equal Protection Clauses of the U.S. and State Constitutions and likely result in a protracted legal challenge against the State.
The Tribes have implied that should the State award Sports Betting licenses to anyone else, they may break their agreement, the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), and stop paying the $250 million in annual payments to the State.
However, this payment isn’t voluntary; it’s a commercial agreement between parties. Should it be broken the Tribes risk forfeiting the benefits from that agreement: the ability to operate slots in their casinos, $750 million gross revenue annually, and the casino monopoly position across the State. That’s what the agreed payments are for. If the Tribes break the agreement it’s not good for Connecticut, but I would suggest it’s catastrophic for the Tribes.
Fortunately, there is a simple solution to avoid unnecessary risk and deliver for Connecticut.
To get back on track with Sports Betting, the State could take a cue from the successful New Jersey model by granting licenses for both retail and online Sports Betting to existing State gaming operators, now. This approach will protect existing jobs, drive incremental State revenue from established licensees and tackle the illegal market. Licensing existing gaming partners to offer Sports Betting provides consumers a competitive choice; critical to a healthy legal Sports Betting marketplace.
Connecticut already lags other states and is missing out. Granting a Sports Betting monopoly to the Tribes and tying up the implementation with a protracted legal fight will only put Connecticut further behind the eightball as more neighboring states legalize Sports Betting.
Connecticut can enact Sports Betting legislation now and empower all the existing gaming operators who have partnered with Connecticut for over a quarter century to deliver it responsibly. End these needless timeouts and let’s work as a team to get this over the goal line.
Let’s go, Connecticut!
Richard McGuire is CEO of Sportech PLC, which is one of Connecticut’s approved licensed gaming operators. The company provides technology and service solutions for gaming companies, sports teams, charitable foundations, and lotteries, and it owns and operates gaming venues in Connecticut and around the USA.
DISCLAIMER: Sportech PLC is included among CTNewsJunkie’s advertising sponsors. The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.