Locals weigh in on potential for legalized sports betting - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Locals weigh in on potential for legalized sports betting

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(WFSB file photo) (WFSB file photo)

A Supreme Court ruling has opened the floodgates for legalized sports betting throughout the country.

Now, the race to legalize it is on.

There was a bill ready to go in this session. Lawmakers said it was expected to bring in $10 million in revenue in the first year alone and it had bipartisan support. Time just ran out.

Now, that the path has been cleared to actually legalize, lawmakers don’t want to wait any longer.

Herb Tyler, at the off-track betting center in Manchester Tomato Joe’s, said he can only play the horses, dogs and jai alai, but soon all the offerings of a Las Vegas-style sportsbook, including college games, could be at his fingertips.

“Occasionally, you might want to bet on the Red Sox or the Yankees or the Giants, Patriots, something like that,” Tyler said.

On Monday, the Supreme Court made a decision that will give players the opportunity to do just that.

It’s just up to state legislators to make it happen.

Democratic State Rep. Joe Verrengia from West Hartford led the push this past session and had bipartisan support, but no vote was taken.

“It was time, we just got into the 11th hour and we ran out of time,” Verrengia said.

Connecticut is one of five states that had a bill at least make it through a committee vote. 

Lawmakers are now playing catch-up in the race to be the first to legalize.

“In order to remain competitive in the gaming marketplace, we need to get a bill passed sooner rather than later,” Verrengia said.

On the business side of things, Jack Maloney owner of Tomato Joe’s said he’s ready to go as soon as it’s legalized.

He says it’s as simple as a software update.

“If they voted for it, I’m sure there are bugs that need to be worked, out, they need to reach an agreement, but we’re ready to go,” Maloney said.

At least one of the state’s two casinos have also indicated they’re ready. Mohegan Sun wrote, “We have long felt that Mohegan gaming & entertainment was in a great position to offer this type of gaming at our flagship property in Connecticut and beyond.”

The tribes initially made a push for exclusivity, but the state balked at that idea.

In a statement on Monday, Chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, Rodney Butler said, "This is a historic day for the gaming industry.  Although legislation didn’t pass the Connecticut General Assembly this session, we look forward to continuing the sports betting conversation with the State to determine the most sensible and feasible approach for us, Connecticut, its operators, and its constituents to pursue this opportunity within the structure of our current agreements.  Likewise, we look forward to offering Foxwoods’ guests a safe and exciting way to bet on sports.”

Verrengia said in principle, the state, the tribes and the governor, all want sports betting, so all eyes are on the folks at the capitol.

Governor Dannel Malloy announced he may call a special session, bringing lawmakers back for a vote.

In a statement Monday, he said “My administration continues to review and digest the Supreme Court decision overturning the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.  In the coming days, I plan to deliberate with legislative leadership regarding the impact of this decision on the state.  As of today, I am prepared to call the General Assembly into special session to consider legalizing sports betting in Connecticut.  It is incumbent on us to consider the question of legalized sports betting in a thoughtful way that ensures our approach is responsible, smart, and fully realizes the economic potential that this opportunity provides.”

“I feel there’s a good chance we will go into special session, I think the important thing is that we have a bill that’s been filed and we’re ready to go,” Verrengia said.

While it seems as if lawmakers and the tribes are in agreement, some of the finer details still need to be ironed out.

“Today’s court decision presents a potential opportunity for our state, one we have already started to prepare for, and a special session to enact legislation to get us going from a regulatory and operational standpoint would be an appropriate and prudent response. We have a bill ready to serve as a foundation that was worked on extensively this session in concert with many stakeholders including the NBA, MLB, the Tribes, OTB and the Lottery. As a state where gaming is an important sector of our economy, we need to look ahead and be ready for what is coming and act to keep us competitive with other states," said Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz, in a statement. 

Other lawmakers still have issues with this proposal. 

In a statement, Senator Len Fasano said, "I would like to request that legislative leaders meet with your administration and the Office of the Attorney General before any special session is discussed so that we can better understand the legal questions surrounding this issue. I understand that the Attorney General has opined on sports betting previously. While that opinion indicates the Attorney General believes the state’s tribes would not have an exclusive right under existing Compacts and MOUs to offer sports betting, the tribes could argue that a state law permitting sports wagering would violate their exclusivity provisions and the question of whether sports betting is a commercial casino game remains open."

It seems this is not a matter of if sports betting will be legalized, it’s a matter of when.

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