On Tuesday, the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection prepared for the 3 p.m. launch of digital sports betting and online casino platforms via DraftKings and FanDuel, as well as Rush Street Interactive‘s sports wagering platform.
The launches mark just the second time in the U.S. that both iGaming and sports betting platforms have gone live on the same day in the same state. The launch will be in “soft” mode, with a limited number of users invited to play. Full launch is set for Oct. 19 at 12:01 a.m., according to a DCP spokesperson.
During the soft-launch period, operators can sign up no more than 750 players, for a total of 2,250 across the three platforms on the sports betting side. DraftKings and FanDuel, which are partnered with tribal casinos, will also launch online casino. Rush Street Interactive, which is partnered with the Connecticut Lottery, will not have an iCasino platform, per the new state law and tribal compacts. Rush Street’s sports betting site will be branded PlaySugarHouse.
While it’s not totally unusual to have a soft-launch period, Connecticut’s is longer than many. In 2019, Pennsylvania‘s soft launch lasted three days, but unlike in most states, where the regulator is the lottery or a gaming board, Connecticut’s regulator is a consumer-first agency with no experience in online gaming.
“In Connecticut, we don’t have any of this– it’s all brand new. And it’s not a gradual thing: We’re jumping into something new altogether,” Kaitlyn Krasselt, director of communications for the DCP, told Sports Handle. “Our primary goal is to make sure that businesses can operate in a fair marketplace and that consumers are protected, so we just want to make sure that things work the way they are supposed to. We’re also making sure all of the responsible gaming parts of the regulation are working. So, we want to make sure, for example, that people can’t sign up accounts for their kids or deceased relatives.”
Soft launch means limited hours, players
Retail wagering began in Connecticut on Sept. 30, and prior to that, the DCP got a jump on responsible gaming when it opened its voluntary exclusion portal. The state is also requiring operators to have a timer on their apps, so users can track how long they have been playing, as well as a counter that will alert players when they have wagered $2,500. At that point, the consumer will begin to get notices with regard to spending, though the state has not imposed a spending limit.
Ep. 150 of the Gamble On podcast is live! @EricRaskin
discuss NY missing their RFA deadline, Fanduel’s entry into Connecticut, and a lawsuit challenging the Florida compact. Plus special guest Kevin Rogers!
— US Bets (@US_Bets) July 8, 2021
During the soft-launch period, the DCP will be checking to make sure that systems for all the operators are working properly and will be reviewing tax-reporting paperwork. And while full launch is scheduled for Oct. 19, Krasselt did say that that timeline assumes that “no major issues” will come up during the test period.
Operators were able to begin signing up players last Friday.
“FanDuel and Mohegan Sun are excited to bring America’s #1 Sportsbook to the state of Connecticut today as we begin the soft launch phase for sports betting,” a FanDuel spokesman told Sports Handle. “Connecticut has set a cap on the total customers allowed to participate in the soft launch, meaning this week is a chance for all operators to test their systems with a controlled group of customers. Please stay tuned to news when legal sports betting goes live in Connecticut for all sports fans.”
According to DCP rules, the soft launch must go the full seven days, though the available hours for wagering will gradually increase. For both sports betting and iCasino, wagering can take place from 3-11 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday; from noon-11:59 p.m. on Thursday and Friday; and 24 hours a day beginning Saturday. The soft launch will end at 11:59 p.m. on Oct. 18 and live gaming open for all is set to begin at 12:01 a.m. Oct. 19.
DraftKings, partnered with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe (Foxwoods Casino), and FanDuel, partnered with the Mohegan Tribe (Mohegan Sun), will be subject to a handful of additional restrictions on the online casino side. According to a DCP press release, the operators will be “limited to games approved by DCP” ahead of the launch and no live dealer or peer-to-peer casino games will be allowed.
“Starting on Oct. 12, a small number of customers will be able to place bets legally via our online casino and sportsbook during specific daily windows as determined by Connecticut’s Department of Consumer Protection,” a DraftKings spokesperson told Sports Handle. “We are hopeful to receive approval to fully launch our online casino and sportsbook to all Connecticut customers following a successful completion of the soft launch testing period.”
Lottery already has plans to change brand
The dual launch of iGaming and digital sports betting is rare. Lawmakers in Michigan most recently before Connecticut legalized online casino and digital wagering in the same bill, and that state launched both on Jan. 22.
On the sports betting side, RSI was offering a $250 sign-up bonus to all new players in Connecticut, plus a free bet to anyone on the waiting list outside of the first 750 signups. RSI and the lottery chose to use the SugarHouse brand in the interest of time — lawmakers legalized sports betting on May 27 — and expect to change the branding in the future. The company will also have a hand running some, if not all, of the the lottery’s 15 retail sites across the state.
— The Day (@thedayct) August 25, 2021
“We are thrilled to begin the much-anticipated launch of the PlaySugarHouse online sportsbook with the Connecticut Lottery and bring our award-winning product to players in Connecticut,” said RSI CEO Richard Schwartz via press release. “We are confident that with our huge volume of betting content, wide range of deposit and withdrawal methods, real-time cash-out approvals, and best-in-class customer service, Connecticut players will come to prefer PlaySugarHouse when wagering on their favorite sports.”