Two weeks before Connecticut’s General Assembly goes into session again, state Sen. Cathy Osten says she will resubmit her gaming legislation. Osten hopes to reach a resolution concerning long-held disagreements between state lawmakers and local tribes.
Osten’s bill proposes that the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes give up their online gaming exclusivity rights in exchange for a gaming facility in Bridgeport, CT.
The debate over tribal agreements
To make the bill more palatable, added provisions include assurances that more gaming revenue would be allocated for the eastern municipalities. Namely, the revised bill focuses on dedicating funds to those areas near the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods casino resorts owned by the tribes.
The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Fund has been a focal point for Osten in her renewed push for online gaming in Connecticut. Twenty years ago, the fund was flush with reserves, topping out at nearly $135 million. Last year, that same fund was measured at just below $50 million. This was the smallest amount allocated to municipalities since casino revenue share legislation has been on the books in Connecticut.
The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Fund fared better in 2020, as a slightly larger allotment of $51.5 million was distributed among municipalities. Osten remains confident that a third casino would boost those revenues to their highs of 20 years ago.
The trade-off Osten proposes would provide the tribes with another gaming venue while allowing the state to garner substantial revenue from sports betting and online lottery sales. Still, the tribes are insisting they retain exclusivity rights to sports betting, complicating matters for Osten and her colleagues in favor of the legislation.
CT governor supports gaming bill
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont is eager to move forward with ratifying gaming legislation, as success with similar laws has already been observed throughout the northeast, such as in Rhode Island. Lamont is pushing for all parties to return to the negotiating table, lest Connecticut lose out on revenues from the sports betting boom.
The governor’s director of communications stated, “The administration has had discussions with the tribes recently and views 2021 as a good time to move forward on legalizing sports betting. We’d like to continue the discussions throughout the upcoming session. It’s important for the state of Connecticut not to be left behind with this new opportunity.”