Governor Denies Connecticut Online Gaming Bid From Tribes

Governor Denies Connecticut Online Gaming Bid From Tribes
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Tribes in Connecticut, unable to offer brick-and-mortar gambling at their casinos because of coronavirus-related closures, asked last week for a chance to offer online casino gaming but were denied by Gov. Ned Lamont.

The Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes wrote a letter to Lamont on April 1 making the request to operate online gaming, according to a report in The Day of New London. Their land-based casinos – Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, respectively – have been closed since mid March as part of an attempt to stop the virus from spreading further, and the closure has been damaging financially for the tribes.

RELATED: A guide to Connecticut gaming

Lamont wrote a letter back on Friday, according to The Day. His letter to the tribes said that he shared their concerns about their financial situation but that easier access to online gaming is “(A) significant policy decision that has not yet been embraced or acted upon by our legislature.”

The development is the latest in a long string of complications for would-be Connecticut bettors.

Connecticut Sports Betting Saga

The tribes would not have offered sports betting had their request been granted, rendering that part of the debate moot for now. But the recent story of gambling in Connecticut – and of sports betting in particular – has pitted the tribes against Lamont.

Last year, a bill that would allow both tribes to operate sports betting at their existing casinos, as well as a proposed third casino in Bridgeport that the tribes would operate jointly, was taken up in the Connecticut legislature.

But Lamont opposed the bill before it even got very far and MGM has threatened legal action. The casino giant has expressed interest in opening its own casino in Bridgeport. There is no timeline for when Connecticut might take up the issue of sports betting again, especially with the legislature adjourned until at least April 13.

As for other types of gaming? Connecticut has a state lottery, but with the casinos shuttered, only social casino with Chumba and a similar social casino gaming option – also using virtual money – with Luckyland Casino exist for online gaming enthusiasts.

Connecticut Tribal Casinos Important Financially

The two tribal casinos combine to transfer more than $250 million per year to the state’s general fund, according to figures from the state’s Department of Consumer Protection. From the time Mohegan Sun opened in 1997, the tribes have combined for at least $200 million worth of tax contributions each year, peaking at $430 million in 2007.

That annual figure has mostly declined since then but still came in at $255 million in 2019. According to The Day, the casinos each account for more than 5,000 jobs, ranking them among the top 10 employers in the state.

And that helps explain why the tribes still hold sway and have some influence on future gaming matters in Connecticut, whether that be with future online gaming options or sports betting. Just not enough sway for Lamont to pave a fast track for online gaming in the state.

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