Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont announced an agreement with the Mohegan Tribe last week “to modernize gaming options available to state residents,” including online gambling in CT. The agreement marks an important step forward for expanding gambling in Connecticut, but not everyone was happy with the announcement.
The ten-year agreement grants equal concessions to both of Connecticut’s tribal gaming operators, but its announcement appeared to take the Mashantucket Tribe by surprise. Mashantucket Tribal Chair Rodney Butler described the announcement as “extremely disrespectful” and “offensive” to the Mashantucket Tribe, which is still in negotiations with the state on how to proceed with gambling expansion plans.
Connecticut’s gaming tribes operate two of the country’s largest casinos. The Mohegan Tribe operates the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation operates Foxwoods Casino in Mashantucket.
Legislators have said they cannot support expanded gambling unless both tribes are signed on.
Sportech, Connecticut’s exclusive pari-mutuel horse wagering operator, is threatening to sue the state for not giving Sportech a bigger role in sports betting.
Main Points from the CT-Mohegan Agreement:
- Ten-year agreement with a five-year extension option
- Connecticut’s gaming tribes may offer sports betting and online gambling
- Sports betting revenue will be taxed at 13.5%
- Online gambling will be taxed at 20%
- The Connecticut Lottery may offer mobile betting and operate up to 15 retail sportsbooks
- The CT Lottery may sublicense some of its retail sportsbooks to Sportech
What’s Upsetting Sportech?
In short, Sportech wants a bigger role in Connecticut’s future sports betting industry. Sportech has been lobbying the state for inclusion in sports betting, but last week’s agreement grants limited concessions to Sportech. Under the terms of Lamont’s deal with the Mohegan Tribe, Sportech would be limited to operating a handful of retail sportsbooks if approved by the CT Lottery.
Sportech issued a statement in response to Lamont’s announcement threatening to “pursue legal recourse” on behalf of its 400 Connecticut employees. Sportech emphasized that filing a lawsuit is “the last thing we want to do,” but the group needs a bigger place at the table to remain competitive.
In an interview with the Hartford Business Journal, Sportech Venues President Ted Taylor expressed his exasperation with the state’s agreement with the Mohegan Tribe:
Just being given bricks-and-mortar sports betting is kind of like being given a Blockbuster and being asked to compete with Netflix.
Taylor estimates that online sports betting in Connecticut will account for up to 85% of the market.
Will the Mashantucket Pequot Join the Agreement?
The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, Mohegan Tribe, CT Lottery, and Sportech have been negotiating with the state for some time on expanding Connecticut sports betting and gambling. As such, the governor’s two-sided agreement took the Mashantucket Tribe by surprise.
In a statement given to Connecticut News 12, Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Chair Rodney Butler said this:
”After months of closed-door negotiations, it’s offensive that Governor Lamont would announce an agreement with only one of the two Tribal Nations that have been a party to the negotiations, despite full knowledge that both sovereign Nations are needed to implement any agreement. We have participated in these discussions in good faith and consider today’s events extremely disrespectful in terms of process and substance.”
Butler added that only one remaining point of contention could be quickly resolved if “some sense of mutual respect is afforded” for the tribe’s specific needs. He emphasized that the tribe remains open to discussions and hopes the issue is quickly resolved.
Eastern Connecticut Representatives Don’t Support the Current Deal
Yet another party that hasn’t warmed to the agreement is a legislative delegation made up of 17 eastern Connecticut lawmakers.
The bipartisan group sent a letter to the Democratic governor, urging him to complete an agreement that includes both of the state’s federally recognized tribal nations.
In a letter published by CTPost.com the legislators stressed that they “cannot accept this agreement as it is incomplete.”
In response, the governor’s office said it recognizes the need for the Mashantucket Pequots to be a party to any agreement and urges the tribe to join immediately. The governor’s chief of staff stressed that expanded gambling will provide long-term stability for both tribes, who employ thousands of people in Connecticut.