Connecticut passes legal online gambling bill

Jon Pill
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Posted on May 26, 2021 8:49 pm EDT

Update 5/28/21: Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont signed Connecticut’s legal online gambling bill into law last night. It’s now official: some forms of gambling are legal in the Constitution State.

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A few minutes before midnight last night, the Connecticut state Senate passed a bill to legalize online gaming and sports betting. Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont has confirmed that he will be signing the bill in the next few days.

The bill grants sports betting rights to the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes, and a combination of online gaming and sports betting rights to the Connecticut Lottery Corporation. So far the only games specifically named in the bill are keno and “online lottery games.” As a result, Connecticuters will have to wait for regulated online poker.

The bill also legalizes in-person versions of these forms of gambling. In practice, this means allowing the Lottery to establish up to 15 stand-alone sportsbooks and the tribes to add sportsbooks to their casino properties.

One side effect of the bill is that the new law will halt long-running plans to turn an old cinema in East Windsor into a casino.

These rights come with a pretty heavy state gambling tax. The operators of the online and in-person gambling sites will owe the state’s General Fund between 13.75% and 20% of their gross revenues. That means the money comes out before any operating costs or other state, federal, and corporate taxes have been deducted.

That’s quite an additional rake.

The cost of the benefits

Senator Tony Hway came out strong against the bill, stating that addiction rates are higher for online vs in-person gambling.

Senator Cathy Osten countered Hway’s worries by pointing out that the bill had anti-addiction provisions built-in. For example, the bill requires gambling apps to be built in ways that reduce the risk of addiction. This is a pretty weak sop to the safety of Connecticut’s problem gamblers.

More substantially, the bill requires the licensed groups to fund programs that help problem gamblers. The bill contains a provision that requires the Lottery to donate $1 million per year to problem gambling charities. The two tribes will have to donate $500,000 each to similar charities.

Once signed into state law, there is still one more hoop to jump through for the tribes.

Because the reservations are federal land, the tribes will have to negotiate with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to get amendments to the state compact passed. If they succeed, only then will the tribes be allowed to act on their state awarded licenses. Once that has happened, online gambling can move ahead.

The Lottery is not bound by the same federal laws and will be able to kick off as soon as the governor sorts the paperwork.

Featured image source: Flickr by Matthew Hester