Online Gaming Still in the Works for Connecticut
Summary: A committee hearing in Connecticut earlier this week concluded with online gambling still on the table.
Earlier this week, a committee hearing took place that was an amazing eleven hours long, focusing on a gambling expansion for Connecticut. On the table are several aspects including online poker and casino gaming. Surprisingly, during the super long meeting, the online gambling aspects of legislation were not looked at very closely.
In the past, states have been less open to launching online gambling, be it online poker or casino games. Why this is, is really anyone’s guess. In 2013, Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada decided to launch online gambling options and have been quite successful over the years. In 2017, Pennsylvania passed legislation that included online casino and poker games, with operations set to start this year. So far this year, a few states have considered the option, including Connecticut.
While one would think that the iGaming aspects would be the point of contention for an impending gambling expansion, that is not the case. In the state, the problem lies with sports betting and casinos regarding the exclusive rights of tribes in the state. Such issues must be taken care of before any legislation is going to move forward in the state.
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New revenue sources are needed for the Connecticut casinos, both the Foxwoods and the Mohegan Sun. Over the past few years, the gaming venues have seen a significant drop in revenue numbers. Most of the loss can be attributed to neighboring states launching casinos over the years. Massachusetts, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island all have gaming now and they are taking traffic from Connecticut.
During the Joint Public Safety and Security meeting, Mashantucket Pequot (Foxwoods) chairman Rodney Butler stated that the employment numbers at the casino have been cut by around 50%. During peak operation, the facility had as many as 11,000 employees. The casinos have seen a decrease in slot machines, with both facilities have been decreased by around 3,000 machines.
Because of the decreases, the money going to the state have been impacted significantly. When comparing 2009 to 2017, Representative Michael DiMassa stated that gaming payments are down over $100 million. Last year, payments came in at $270 million but the revenues are on track to decrease any more.
Boosting Land Based Revenues
Both the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods are hopeful for online gambling. Last year, the two casino came out in support of the option, looking at the operations as a way to improve their land-based venues. Mohegan Sun President and General Manager Ray Pineault has estimated that online gambling would provide $10 million during the first year of operations. By five years of operation, that number would increase to around $22 million according to estimates.
Sports betting and keno is also on the table. Projections show that online gambling, sports betting and keno would produce $178 million in state funding over a five year time frame. This money is much needed and would certainly help the state where deficits are present.
The tribes see online gambling as the best opportunity to earn revenues. When looking at other states, the mobile and online numbers are high. Players want to play online and there is much money to be made. The operators in Connecticut see the opportunity that online gambling can provide, and they want to see it happen.
So much is on the table, there is most likely going to be many more discussions before any legislation will move forward. For now, we will stay on top of any developments and report on changes as it happens.