In a bid to bring the Connecticut Lottery into the modern age of online gambling, the Connecticut Lottery Corp. is lobbying state legislators to consider a bill, RB 277, that would legalize the sale of lottery tickets online. The sale would be approved for residents 21 and older. In addition to legalized online ticket sales, the bill would address the longstanding and more complicated issue of sports betting in Connecticut. The sports betting portion of the bill would outline which institutions are to be granted the rights to facilitate legal sports betting in the state.
The bill was submitted to the Public Safety and Security Committee earlier this month during a hearing. It was revealed that while the bill would provide for online lottery ticket sales, scratchcard games would be excluded. The bill’s main proponent, president and chief executive officer of the Connecticut Lottery Gregory Smith, cited the marked success of the 10 other states that currently offer online lottery ticket sales in his arguments in favor of the bill. Smith estimates as much as $50 million in new revenue could be generated within five years of legalizing online lottery ticket sales in Connecticut.
Gambling and lottery discussion
Online horse race betting has been legal in Connecticut since 2013, but no horse track has operated in the state. Smith, and many others, believe it is time for the state lottery to take its next step toward modernization. An online point of sale is said to be the next logical progression if the institution desires to increase, or at least maintain, the contributions generated by the lottery.
Some opponents of the bill have argued that online ticket sales would detract from the commission paid in retail sales. However, Smith refers to the states already offering online sales, which have not suffered the described effects .
Rep. Patrick S. Boyd, D-Pomfret, says his biggest quarrel with the legislation is based on the provision that online ticket purchases would be facilitated with credit and debit cards. Boyd’s concern in allowing players to gamble with their credit is shared among colleagues. The representative drew a comparison to the legalization of marijuana, in which case he asserts that proponents are thinking of the benefit and not of the impacts such legislation would have on society.
Connecticut sports betting legislation
On the same gambling front, Smith has pushed for the lottery’s inclusion in Connecticut sports betting legislation, which already provides for state casinos and off-track bookmakers to take wagers on events and matches. Smith believes the lottery’s inclusion would further drive revenues generated from the practice to the tune of $15 million to $20 million.
In a push back, Rep. Joseph Verrengia, D-West Hartford, pointed to already slim sports betting margins. Verrengia, the committee House chairman, did acknowledge that while losses on sports are prevalent, the sales generated from the lottery are increasing year-on-year.
Native American tribes in Connecticut stress that they retain exclusive rights to sports betting practices in the state and say that agreements to permit sports betting outside of tribal institutions would have to go through their legislative process.
University leaders are stressing that whether the state Legislature decides to permit or prohibit sports betting in Connecticut, university athletes should be left out of it. Prohibition of gambling on college sports is one law that the University of Connecticut Athletic Director David Benedict would be happy to see come into effect.
Benedict said as much on the topic, offering, “The university does not support collegiate sports betting generally.” He went on to add that gambling on college events “could result in the exposure of student-athletes to a new level of pressure and the influence of others.” Earlier this month, Iowa passed legislation banning sports wagering on individual university and college athletes, as well as their opponents.