Talks between the governor’s office and the state’s two federally recognized tribes over the rights to sports betting are at an impasse.
Rather than a large omnibus gaming bill introduced by legislators, Gov. Ned Lamont supports a “narrow, stand-alone” sports betting bill that gets the Connecticut Lottery and off-track-betting vendor Sportech in on the action in addition to the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes, according to a statement issued Tuesday.
“The governor supports the latter approach because it is simpler, focuses exclusively on sports betting, and is therefore more achievable in this short legislative session,” said Max Reiss, Lamont’s director of communications.
But the governor’s stance isn’t supported by the tribes. They say existing gaming compacts with the state give them -- and only them -- the rights to operate sports betting in Connecticut.
Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, said he won’t back the narrowly focused bill.
“Because it goes in the face of our agreements that we have with the state and that we’ve had that have been incredibly prosperous for the state and for the tribes for almost 30 years,” Butler said.
“If you have those agreements in place and you believe that we can move forward with sports betting, why not do it with your existing partners under the current agreements that we have?”
Earlier in the day, Butler told lawmakers at a public hearing in Hartford that the tribes would stop giving the state 25% of its gross slot machine revenue if Connecticut didn’t recognize the tribes’ claim to exclusivity. Last year, that cut was $255 million.
The tribal nations support a bill being pushed by state Sen. Cathy Osten (D-Sprague) and other Senate Democrats that makes the tribes the sole operators of sports betting in Connecticut.
When Osten spoke at the hearing, she was effusive in her praise of Butler and the two tribal nations, giving them a shoutout for delivering what she said was $9 billion in state revenue.
“I want to thank you for employing my neighbors and my friends and the people in the state of Connecticut, and I want to thank you, as the co-chair of [the General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee], for providing the single largest dollar amount than any other corporation in the state of Connecticut -- bar none -- by probably almost 90%.”
The proposal also calls for a casino to be built in Bridgeport under the joint tribal venture of Mashantucket Mohegan Connecticut or MMCT. It authorizes the venture to operate three “entertainment zone facilities” across the state where people could gamble.