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Connecticut Lottery Makes Push For Online Lottery Sales And Sports Betting

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After years of dismissive attitudes toward an industry associated with abuses, it appears Connecticut regulators and lawmakers are willing to return to the table. With renewed discussion on the topic of gaming expansion, Connecticut may find itself moving forward with expanded lottery and gambling markets.

The Connecticut Lottery has a past plagued with scandals and snafus. As a result, state lawmakers have been reticent to hear arguments in favor of investing in the state’s lottery infrastructure and programs. For example, in 2016, Connecticut Lottery President and Chief Anne Noble resigned in the wake of retailer fraud associated with the 5 Card Cash lottery game. Interim leadership following Noble’s absence performed poorly, which resulted in a forced redraw and additional costs totaling $1 million. As a result, the interim CEO, security director and human resources director tendered their resignations soon after.

Looking back to 2019, Connecticut Lottery Corp. CEO Greg Smith outlined his vision for the future of the state’s lottery. In efforts to modernize, Smith assured lawmakers that the future of the institution would be found in digital spaces and new markets. This would allow sports betting markets and online lottery sales to reach a more broad audience wherever they found themselves, rather than just providing outlets in retail locations throughout the state.

Today, the proposal has backing from Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont and a real shot at becoming a topic for upcoming legislative sessions.

While the momentum is driven by corporate and legislative bodies, state tribes also are in on the talks. This all comes alongside continued state and tribal negations for the proposed Foxwoods Resort and Mohegan Sun casinos.

To better support Smith’s proposal for online lottery sales and potential sports betting markets, former senior ESPN and NBC Sports executive Rob Simmelkjaer has been added to the roster.

In an interview on the subject of a potential expansion of lottery markets, Simmelkjaer said, “We’re very confident that there is a deal, an agreement to be reached, one within reach with the tribal leaders and one that will hopefully include lottery. We believe that that’s the path that makes the most sense for the state of Connecticut, for the taxpayers of Connecticut.”

The Lottery does a lot of good for the state of Connecticut, bringing in $1.3 billion worth of sales in its last fiscal year. This resulted in a total profit of $347 million. $822 million was returned to players in the form of prizes. This was a lower performance than the prior year, which can be attributed to COVID-19 and its impact on retail markets.

Legislators have met with Smith and Simmelkjaer to review the challenges and opportunities associated with proposed changes to state gambling markets and laws. For some, sports betting legalization is a more approachable topic than lottery, given the latter’s troubled past in the state.

On addressing those apprehensions, Simmelkjaer said, “My first conversation with every single board member, as well as with the senior staff of lottery when Greg took me around the offices and introduced me to various department heads, my message was very consistent: We have to put these things behind us and instill confidence, both in Hartford and with the public, as to CT Lottery’s ability to execute on our existing business, because there are tremendous opportunities in front of us to grow this business and grow the impact that we’re making in the state.”

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