Bipartisan Connecticut Sports Betting Bill Introduced in State Senate

A group of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have introduced a new sports betting bill in Connecticut. The bill, LCO 578, seeks to legalize both in-person and online sports betting at the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods casinos.

State Senator Cathy Osten took the lead in introducing this bill, which would establish a minimum age of 21 and allow both of the state’s casinos to operate physical sportsbooks and accept mobile wagers from anyone located inside the state.

In a press release, she said this:

“Connecticut needs to play catch-up with surrounding states if we’re serious about modernizing our existing gaming industry. Fortunately, we can do that with a relatively simple regulatory fix.

“The U.S. Supreme Court decision last year paved the way for the expansion of private-sector sports betting, and I think Connecticut is in a good position to take advantage of that. We have the infrastructure with the tribal casinos, we can use the new revenue, and we’ve got bipartisan support. This should be an early session success story.”

The fact that this bill has bipartisan support bodes well for its chances moving forward. Senator Osten is joined by Senators Steve Cassano, Paul Formica, Heather Somers and Senator-elect Norm Needleman. Representatives Kevin Ryan, Christine Conley, Emmett Riley, Joe de la Cruz, Susan Johnson, Doug Dubitsky, Mike France and Holly Cheeseman are also noted among the bill’s list of co-sponsors.

Comments from Senator-elect Norm Needleman were also included in the press release:

“Neighboring states are already ahead of Connecticut on sports betting, but I think it’s an issue we can quickly catch up on that will have positive employment, economic and revenue impacts on Connecticut.

“Two of Connecticut’s top-10 largest employers will benefit from this bill. The U.S. Supreme Court has already cleared the way legally, so I believe it’s incumbent on us as state policymakers to do what’s necessary to remain relevant and profitable in a rapidly expanding new national industry.”

The neighboring states referred to by both senators in their statements include Rhode Island, which legalized sports betting last year, and New York, which is likely in the process of doing so right now. Expanding out a little further, we also have New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware and Washington DC with sports betting laws on the books.

The Hartford Courant reports the CT Lottery is also interested in offering sports. Lottery spokeswoman Tara Chozet told the Courant that the “CT Lottery would optimize the returns to Connecticut, and we should be included in the conversations alongside other potential operators as this discussion evolves.”

Involving the CT Lottery may be a tall order. Last year, Connecticut’s influential gaming tribes claimed the existing gaming compact with the state gives the tribes exclusivity over sports betting.

Lawmakers and the state attorney general argue the tribes do not have exclusivity over CT sports betting since it wasn’t a consideration when the gaming compact was signed. However, the tribes threatened last year to withhold up to $250 million in slot machine revenue from the state if they aren’t given exclusivity or the state fails to negotiate an acceptable deal with the tribes.

Not the First Sports Betting Effort for Connecticut

Connecticut has been eyeing sports betting for a good while now. Back in 2017, lawmakers approved a short bill ordering the Commissioner of Consumer Protection to adopt regulations governing sports betting “to the extent permitted by state and federal law.”

That bill was written prior to the Supreme Court overturning the federal prohibition on sports betting, which is why that bit about federal law was added. Connecticut is now working on the reference to state law with the introduction of a new sports betting bill this week.

Last year, Connecticut lawmakers reaffirmed their desire to act on sports betting with prominent House Democratic members calling for legislation. With Connecticut pushing for sports betting three years running and this latest effort having bipartisan support, Connecticut is looking increasingly likely to get something done.