Governor Ned Lamont has decided that the Mashantucket Pequot and the Mohegan tribes of the state should not be allowed to provide online gambling. The two are currently unable to operate their Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos due to the coronavirus outbreak. The online option would provide the tribes with a way to earn revenues during the closure. The Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments urged the governor to approve the option via an executive order.
Not Going to Happen
The Chairman of the Council, Mark Nickerson, commented in a letter sent to the governor that the public health emergency has altered the livelihood of the tribes in an unprecedented way. Nickerson stated they need to do everything they can to be able to survive now and then to thrive in the future. They requested the utilization of iGaming since the casino venues have voluntarily closed their doors.
The letter was signed by each of the Council members, which are elected officials of the region. The request was polite and hopeful that the tribes would have another way to do business.
A letter was sent in response by the governor which stated that he shares their concern for financial distress that is being caused by the pandemic. However, he declines the request. The governor said that authorizing online gaming and allowing customers to have easy access to gambling is a significant policy decision that has yet to be embraced or acted upon by legislature.
By allowing the option at a time when residents of the state are in financial distress would be a significant policy decision to make without approval of legislature.
In the past, proposed legislation would have allowed the tribes to have exclusive rights to sports betting and the option to offer online gambling. Governor Lamont has been in favor of legislation that supports sports betting but not iGaming.
Right now, the potential for sports betting in the state is also halted. The virus has stopped legislature in their tracks and all professional sports are currently suspended.
According to Nickerson, if online gaming were an option, the tribes would be able to offset their current losses. People would be able to get back to work quicker once the pandemic is over. The many municipalities would also be assured that they could depend on revenue from the Pequot Fund and continue to be able to receive funding.
The Pequot Fund is a fund that both tribes used to provide grants to the municipalities of the state. The money is derived from 25% taxes that the tribes pay on their slot machine gaming revenues.
According to Governor Lamont, he is taking significant as well as immediate steps to help alleviate the financial distress that tribe members and their businesses are incurring due to the pandemic. The monthly slot contributions have been deferred as well as regulatory assessments. The state has also agreed to reduce the amount of the regulatory assessment during the time of closure because services were not provided.