It’s possible that Connecticut residents may be able to place a bet on their phones by Labor Day, but action the Senate took Tuesday is not the final stop for a proposal to expand gambling in Connecticut.
The Senate passed the bill 28 to 6.
Gov. Ned Lamont, who negotiated the deal with the two federally-recognized tribal nations and the Connecticut Lottery, is expected to sign the legislation before it goes to the Bureau of Indian Affairs for approval. The federal government will have to sign off on the changes to the tribal compacts with the Mashantucket Pequots and the Mohegan Tribal Nation.
Sen. Cathy Osten, who was named co-chair of the Public Safety & Security Committee following the arrest of Sen. Dennis Bradley, says off-reservation the two tribes will be to do online casino games and online fantasy contests.
“Connecticut has been working toward this comprehensive update over the last four legislative sessions,” Osten said.
She said it modernizes the regulatory structure and allows the governor to amend the compacts.
The exclusivity that the tribes have over gambling is partly why it’s taken so long to get an agreement.
“We operate gaming with two of the largest casinos at our two sovereign nations that have set a standard of gaming in New England,” Osten said.
The Connecticut Lottery will also be allowed to do online and sports betting, in addition to opening 15 retail locations, including specifically one in Hartford and one in Bridgeport.
The state of Connecticut will get a cut of those gambling revenues. iGaming will come with a 18% tax rate for the first five years and then increase to 20% for the remainder of the 10 year deal. The state will get 13.75% on sports wagering on gross gaming revenue.
The bill also requires the two tribes to contribute $500,000 toward problem gambling and the Lottery will increase its contribution by $1 million to $3 million.
Osten said they built provisions into the bill to make the apps used to place bets on the phone less addictive.
“There will be no betting on state college sports,” Osten said.
Sen. Tony Hwang, R-Fairfield, said there’s a societal cost to expanding gambling.
Hwang said the addiction rate for online and sports gambling is much higher than in-person gambling at casinos.
There was also opposition from lawmakers who represent East Windsor.
The negotiated deal prevents the East Windsor casino from being built for the next 10 years.
“In my opinion this is wrong,” Sen. Saud Anwar, D-South Windsor, said.
He said the town had to learn about it through a Facebook post and not through the governor’s office. The tribes had invested $20 million in the old Showcase Cinemas off I-91 to build a casino to compete with the new MGM casino in Springfield, Mass.