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Republican lawmakers at fault for inaction on sports betting, Malloy says

September 7, 2018

New London — Blaming Republicans, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Thursday there’s virtually no chance the state will legalize sports betting this year.

But some close to the matter have a different view, saying privately that the state already has struck a deal with the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes that would allow for sports betting at the tribes’ casinos as well as at selected off-track betting locations around the state.

The deal would have to be approved by the legislature and then by the federal government, which must sign off on any amendments to the state’s gaming agreements with the tribes. 

Interviewed following a public appearance here, Malloy, a Democrat, said that despite Democratic lawmakers’ support for a special legislative session on sports betting, the prospect of such a session occurring appears to be dead.

“Unless Republicans change their minds and decide to do their jobs,” Malloy said. “I can’t force them.”

He said the Senate’s Republican leadership indicated to him that “not a single Republican senator” was prepared to support a call for a special session.

A spokesman for the Mohegan Tribe, which owns Mohegan Sun, said there are Republican senators “who understand how important this is.”

“I believe that as people come off summer vacations ... they will quickly realize what Connecticut stands to lose by not keeping pace with our competitors in surrounding states,” the spokesman, Chuck Bunnell, said. “We have been a leader for decades and nobody in elected office will want Connecticut to be behind Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and others who have passed enabling legislation.”

Sen. Paul Formica, an East Lyme Republican, said opposition to the scheduling of a special session mostly has to do with “logistics” rather than the issue of sports betting itself.

“Sports betting is here,” he said. “It makes more sense to go into regular assembly session (next year) to deal with it.”

Formica said the state also must consider other gambling-expansion issues, including the need for economic development in Bridgeport, where a casino has been proposed.

Reportedly, the deal the state and the tribes have worked out would allow for the tribes to accept wagers on so-called proposition, or prop, bets as well as on the outcomes of games while certain off-track betting locations operated by Sportech Venues would be allowed to accept bets only on games.

Prop bets typically involve an individual player or event unrelated to the outcome of a game. Examples are wagers on how many touchdowns a certain player will score or on which team will score first.

According to sources, the deal also would enable the tribes and Sportech to roll out online betting sites that could be accessed on hand-held devices.

It’s been estimated that the state could derive from 20 million or more annually in taxes levied on sports betting revenues.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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