Connecticut Taking the Slow Lane to Regulated Online Gambling

ConnecticutReports of a recent flurry of activity in Connecticut have raised hopes that the Constitution State will be the fifth jurisdiction to regulate online gambling in the USA. Although this may eventually be the case, events so far imply Connecticut is taking the slow lane to regulated online gambling.

According to the General Statutes of Connecticut, any form of gambling that is not explicitly authorized by the state is illegal. Consequently the only gambling activities legally allowed to take place within the Constitution State consists of two brick and mortar casinos, pari-mutuel wagering at sixteen off-track betting parlors, charitable gaming and the state lottery.

The laws governing gambling in Connecticut have remained unchanged for more than twenty-five years; and although the regulation of online gambling in Connecticut was described as “inevitable” by Governor Dannell Molloy in 2012, the only movement towards an expansion of gambling came last year when the Connecticut legislature passed a bill authorizing a third brick and mortar casino.

Last year´s bill also included a passage that instructed the state´s consumer protection department to prepare a regulatory structure for legal sports betting at the state´s off-track betting parlors should the Supreme Court repeal the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). There was no indication in the bill that online sports betting would be allowed.

The Recent Flurry of Activity in Connecticut

The recent flurry of activity in Connecticut started last month when Foxwoods Resort Casino announced a partnership with Pariplay that would allow casino customers to play virtual slots via a Foxwoods-branded smartphone app. The significance of the partnership is that it would facilitate the roll-out of a statewide online casino if online gambling legislation in Connecticut was subsequently passed.

At the end of the month, House Speaker Joseph Aresimowicz hosted a “Capitol News Briefing” with the intention of bringing the media up to speed on the progress towards regulated sports betting. In the briefing, several references were made to online gambling discussions, which led some industry observers to speculate lawmakers were preparing for more than the regulation of just sports betting.

The speculation was fueled by the introduction of a bill that would enable residents to buy lottery tickets online. The affiliate website Online Poker Report reported the bill was a clear sign the state was considering online gambling legislation, however the bill specifically prohibits interactive online games, implying the state is not yet ready to move casino gambling and poker into an online environment.

Problem Gambling Concerns Obstruct Rapid Advancement

The primary reason Connecticut is not rushing full steam ahead towards regulated online gambling is concerns about problem gambling. Problem gambling was mentioned by Speaker Aresimowicz during the Capital News Briefing and – significantly – a passage appears in the online lottery bill stipulating a report must be compiled to assess the socioeconomic impact of online lottery sales.

The reason for this passage being significant is the timeline for the report. According to the current language of the bill, the report does not have to be delivered to the General Assembly until July 2023 – implying that legislators are in no rush to further expand online gambling until the impact of online lottery sales is understood – potentially delaying the regulation of online gambling for at least five years.

A further bill has also recently been introduced (5306) calling for a comprehensive study of gambling in Connecticut to determine the economic and social impact of gambling. The bill is being supported by groups opposed to an expansion of gambling, who claim the economic and social costs would far outweigh the benefits. If passed, the bill stipulates the study should be completed by the end of this year; in which case it could have a more immediate impact on the speed at which Connecticut moves towards the regulation of online gambling. Indeed, it could move the state of out the slow lane and onto the shoulder!

Jacqueline Packett
Jacqueline Packett