HARTFORD, CT – Two days after Gov. Ned Lamont announced he was in favor of expanding sports betting beyond Connecticut’s two federally recognized tribes, the leader of one of those tribes issued a strongly-worded statement.
Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, said the governor and his staff didn’t communicate with the tribes for months before announcing his “take-it-or-leave-it” proposal, which puts more than $250 million in annual slot revenue payments to the state at risk.
“That’s not negotiating,” Butler said.
Butler said the tribes have tried to work on a solution by agreeing to build a casino in Bridgeport and allowing other entertainment facilities for sports betting in Hartford, New Haven, and a yet-to-be-named city. It’s a solution that would maintain tribal exclusivity over sports betting.
Max Reiss, a spokesman for Lamont, said what Butler proposed would “invite serious legal challenges from a host of competitors.”
He said it would also “grant the tribes the exclusive authority to offer not just sports betting, but also virtually all other casino games on a mobile platform throughout the state and off their reservations. The governor does not support that proposal and has consistently stated that he will only sign the fair and reasonable resolution, which has been discussed with the tribes, that benefits them and ensures the successful expansion of gaming both on and off of their reservations.”
Reiss said Lamont remains committed to that goal and hopes the tribes will join him in seeking a compromise to resolve the issue.
However, Butler said Lamont’s position seems to disregard legal action if it’s from the tribes.
“The governor is seeking to avoid ‘endless legal challenges,’ but seems to disregard if the legal challenge is from the tribes and costs the residents of the state hundreds of millions of dollars,” Butler wrote. “Legal action didn’t stop Connecticut from granting monopolies for lottery and off-track betting or putting forth a proposal on tolls that was certain to end up in the courts. The fear of legal challenges also hasn’t held up sports betting in the 12 states that have legalized it for their in-state casinos only.”
Further, “There is a path forward on gaming if there is a will to take it, and we stand ready to work with any and all parties to make it happen. If, however, the state decides not to act or to push the courts to decide, we will continue to be the great partner to the residents of this state that we’ve called home for thousands of years.”
The Public Safety and Security Committee has until March 17 to weigh in on the issue and the two competing bills. One that would give the tribes exclusivity and one that would allow third parties to participate in sports betting.