It wasn’t an identity crisis– Connecticut just suffered from the most modern of ailments, indecision and legislative gridlock. In 2018, as soon as the federal restrictions were lifted, Connecticut legislators looked down the I-95 to Atlantic City and saw an opportunity to be among the first in New England to offer legal, online sports betting. However, plenty of questions remained.
After plenty of back and forth with local tribes, Connecticut launched legal online sports betting on October 19, 2021. This victory for sports bettors didn’t come easy. Read below for our total recap of Connecticut sports betting – from the very beginning, to the state’s now booming legal market. We’ll also cover who is partnering with who, and what this regulated market now looks like.
The path to Connecticut sports betting
The state of Connecticut officially went live with legal online sports betting and casino games on October 19, 2021. While the launch process was smooth, that doesn’t quite tell the story of how the state arrived with legal iGaming.
Although Governor Lamont signed the bill into law in May 2021, “Patience is a virtue” is the phrase that comes to mind, as everything needed to be approved by the Department of the Interior before any bets could be placed. Legislation pointed Connecticut to a small, but fully functional online sports betting marketplace complete with mobile registration. Retail betting is also available at locations like Foxwoods and the Mohegan Sun, in addition to lottery run kiosks around the state.
The long-standing duopoly with the Mashantucket Pequot and the Mohegan tribes running the show has more or less carried over to the sports betting sector. However, this hold wasn’t uncontested. During the legislative process there was a push to involve the Connecticut Lottery and off track betting (OTB) locations as potential iGaming licensees. However, on January 13, 2021, a placeholder bill (SB 146) was filed in Connecticut that specified that the tribes would be in charge.
Ultimately Connecticut settled on a three-headed monster. Both influential tribes will have their seat at the sports betting table, with the Connecticut Lottery making up the third license holder. The Department of the Interior officially published its compacts with the Mashantucket Pequot and the Mohegan tribes in September 2021.
With more than 25 years of successful collaboration in their back pocket, Connecticut officials were keen to stick with the status quo, plus a little something extra for the CT Lottery. The current setup doesn’t leave a heck of a lot of room for competition, but it’s argued that the nearly $10 billion in accumulated revenue and tens of thousands of jobs generated by the two tribes’ gaming facilities is enough reason to continue to let them steer the ship and have near-exclusive rights to sports betting in the state.
CT sports betting proponents
State senator Cathy Osten is on a multi-year quest to bring sports betting to Connecticut. However, it wasn’t easy, with obstacles a plenty. Fellow legislators, the state government, and corporations like MGM have all stood in the way. The “Act Concerning Jobs In and Revenue From the Gaming Industry” (SB 21), which would protect the two tribes’ exclusive rights over casino gaming and extend to sports betting was brought forth in 2020 but only made it as far as public hearing. Thankfully renewed efforts in 2021 were finally able to achieve results.
Replenishing the CT coffers
As the state and the world at large realizes the cost of the COVID-19 pandemic, human and otherwise, economies are listing deficits across the board. Connecticut is no different, and is likely eyeing the potential revenue brought to the table by the Mashantucket Pequot and the Mohegan properties with hungry eyes. On the operator’s side, social distancing restrictions have made a huge dent to in-person revenue, so having an available mobile betting platform to pivot to when in-person visits are stagnating is a low-overhead way to keep cash coming in.
Sports betting on its own doesn’t generate nearly as much revenue as slots, and the two tribes (Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan) that dominate the betting scene in CT send hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue back to the CT government through fees on slots alone. Being denied exclusive access to the sports betting market is a publicly-stated reason for the tribes to pull out of the initial MOUs, so there was an incentive to choose to let the tribes continue to enjoy their exclusivity on the sports front.
When did sports betting launch in Connecticut?
Online sports betting officially debuted in Connecticut on October 19th, 2021. There was a digital soft launch with restricted bettors and hours that took place on October 12, but everything officially hit the market on the 19th. DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel Sportsbook, and Play SugarHouse Sportsbook were all available on Day 1. Connecticut retail sports betting actually began a few weeks prior with the first wagers being placed on September 30, 2021.
Legal Connecticut online sportsbooks
Connecticut law formerly permitted three online sports betting operators. They were DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel Sportsbook, and SugarHouse Sportsbook. However, as of March 2023, Play SugarHouse ceased sportsbook operations in Connecticut – FanDuel and DraftKings are the lone sportsbooks in the Constitution State.
|Online Sportsbook||Connecticut Partner||Launch Date|
|DraftKings Sportsbook||Foxwoods (Mashantucket Pequot Tribe)||October 19, 2021|
|FanDuel Sportsbook||Mohegan Sun (Mohegan Tribe)||October 19, 2021|
|TBD (formerly SugarHouse)||Connecticut Lottery||October 19, 2021 as SugarHouse|
FanDuel partners with Mohegan Sun
As states continue to legalize and regulate online sports betting, it’s never if FanDuel and DraftKings will find their way in, it’s a matter of when and with who. Like the famous Frank Sinatra line, “you cant have one without the other” FanDuel and DraftKings have brought their rivalry over from the DFS world to the online sports betting market and shortly after DraftKings announced their entry into the CT online sports betting market, it was made known that FanDuel had partnered with the iconic Mohegan Sun to provide sports betting, DFS and online casinos to the Constitution State.
Under the new law, FanDuel (and all other DFS operators) will now need a license to offer Daily Fantasy Sports, so it is no surprise that they would move quickly to enter the market. It was either lose DFS in the state, or retain their rights to offer DFS and gain sports betting and iGaming. The choice was clear, and FanDuel now offers all of its products in CT.
Foxwoods teams with DraftKings
In late 2020 Foxwoods elected to team up with DraftKings to allow for online sports betting via Mashantucket Pequot-owned properties. This agreement actually predated state approval, but previous statements indicate that the tribe didn’t really believe that the state had any say in the matter anymore, even going so far as to threaten to withhold payments from slot revenue to the state. They wanted sports betting, and they got it.
Whether the agreement was intended as an ultimatum or a not-so-gentle reminder of the importance of tribal revenue in the state remains unknown, but clearly the Mashantucket Pequot take their sovereignty seriously, citing a desire to “protect themselves”.
After you’ve contributed billions to a state’s economy for the privilege of offering casino games, it’s an understandable impulse to protect your revenue stream. Still, some people (including some members of the CT legislature) might feel like the tribal compacts are holding the market hostage. At any rate, Connecticut online sports betting is now up and running and the DraftKings / Foxwoods combination has cemented its position as a top betting option in the state for years to come.
Connecticut Lottery joined with RSI but is now looking for a new partner
Once the legislative dust settled, it was clear that Connecticut’s sports betting industry would be a three horse race. The primary tribal players in the state chose their partners quickly, but the region’s third option, the Connecticut Lottery, took some time to make their pick. There was talk of Unibet Sportsbook, BetMGM, FOX Bet, and even Caesars vying for a position in the state. However, the CT Lottery ultimately agreed to a deal with Rush Street Interactive to supply online sports betting (casino not included) services.
Working with Sportech, RSI will eventually have 15 retail sports betting locations available throughout the state of Connecticut. The Lottery/RSI deal was originally to be in place for 10 years, with the company electing to use its lesser-known SugarHouse Sportsbook branding in the state, as opposed to its more widely known BetRivers name.
However, RSI terminated its contract with the CT Lottery after just under two years and exited the Connecticut market on March 31, 2023. As such, the CT Lottery is looking for a new sportsbook partner. This page will be updated when a new sportsbook partner is announced.
Connecticut is on the smaller side, but actually has more people than Iowa which currently supports 10+ online sportsbooks. With just DraftKings, FanDuel, and TBD (formerly SugarHouse) competing in Connecticut, there is plenty of pie to go around.
Gambling facilities in Connecticut
Connecticut has had legalized gambling in one form or another since the 1970’s. Horse racing and interestingly enough, jai alai becoming the first legal events to bet on. The main gambling facilities in Connecticut are:
- Casino Locations
- Mohegan Sun, owned and operated by the Mohegan tribe
- Foxwoods Resort Casino, owned and operated by the Mashantucket Pequot
- Off Track Betting Locations
- 15 locations throughout CT, run by Sportech under the Winners brand
- Connecticut Lottery
- Available at retailers
Additionally, there are a few proposed in-person gambling locations that may or may not get their legislative or executive approval. A list of potential Connecticut casinos includes:
- Tribal Winds Casino (proposed, tabled by MMCT in 2020)
- MGM Bridgeport (proposed)
The Tribal Winds project has halted development following concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Similarly, the Connecticut legislature hasn’t technically given approval for non-tribal casinos such as MGM to build off-reservation casinos. There’s pushback on many sides, but the tribes have the backing of existing legislation and a handful of dismissed lawsuits in which MGM was the plaintiff.
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Popular sports teams in Connecticut
Connecticut may be small by land mass, but its population (more than 3.5 million!), and their love for sports is not. Connecticut sports fans are amongst the nation’s most passionate, following their favorite professional and college programs with ferocity.
Connecticut lost its one and only professional sports franchise, the NHL’s Hartford Whalers, back in 1997. Unable to secure funding for a new arena in Hartford, owner Peter Karmanos packed the team up and moved to Raleigh, North Carolina – birthing the Hurricanes. With that being said, there’s no lack of sports fandom in Connecticut. Both New England/Boston teams and NY clubs remain extremely popular.
- New England Teams:
- Boston Red Sox
- New England Patriots
- Boston Celtics
- Boston Bruins
- New England Revolution
- New York Teams:
- New York Yankees
- Brooklyn Nets
- New York Mets
- New York Knicks
- New York Rangers
- New York Liberty
- New York Red Bulls
- New York City FC
Legal Connecticut sportsbooks enable users to bet on all of these teams, and plenty more. The NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS, NHL, and plenty of other domestic and international leagues/competitions are fair game on CT online sportsbooks.
Then there’s the college draw. What the state lacks in professional teams, it makes for at the collegiate level. Connecticut is home to Yale in New Haven, University of Connecticut (UConn), Central Connecticut, University of Hartford and many others.
Betting on collegiate sports is a popular past time. That’s great news for Connecticut sports betting fans, since the state is known for its strong showing in D1 sports, particularly basketball. This includes:
- Central Conn Blue Devils
- UConn Huskies
- Fairfield University Stags
- University of Hartford Hawks
Connecticut tourism- who visits and why?
Connecticut, being sandwiched in between the two largest metropolitan areas of the Northeast, is a thoroughfare state. One in four people traveling to CT do so in route to another state. According to a 2017 study, travelers who spend money in CT tend to visit:
- Historic Sites
- Art Galleries
Now it’s time to add sports betting to the list. Of the state’s major neighbors only Rhode Island has legalized online betting. However, Massachusetts and most importantly, New York, have not. First mover status has drawn plenty of action across state borders into Connecticut.
The attention from bettors on collegiate sports and commuters notwithstanding, there’s also a decent subset of folks living closer to the MA and NY borders who would prefer to stay in-state to bet. For example, the MGM property in Springfield, MA is just 12 miles from the Connecticut border, while the only casinos in Connecticut are all in the southeast of the state, an hour’s drive from populated border towns. Having the ability to bet from a smartphone anywhere in Connecticut has tightened those leaks, keeping money in the CT economy and letting bettors wager without having to cross state lines.
Connecticut betting history – first in the New England gaming market
Connecticut is an old soul when it comes to the world of regulated gambling in New England, having established its first legal casino, Foxwoods, in 1992. This was a direct response to a suit brought by the Mashantucket Pequot tribe, which was itself a response to the newly-minted IGRA, or the federally-decided Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988.
Via the IGRA, the federal government created a framework for Native tribes to offer real-money wagering on their tribal lands. This is seen as a protected source of revenue for Native communities. In Connecticut, the Mashantucket Pequots jumped at the chance to negotiate a compact with CT legislators and start offering legal casino games, making their first request that same year, 1988. The request to negotiate was refused. Two years later, after having their hands forced by the second Circuit Court of Appeals, the Connecticut legislature was compelled to enter into good-faith negotiations within 180 days of the decision. Thus, the road to legal casino gaming in New England was paved.
Video slots caused hiccups, Tribes pay
Numerous legislative sessions arguing over the presence of “video facsimile” machines, i.e. video slots would follow in the next few years. Punishingly, Foxwoods was required to hand over 25% of their overall slot machine winnings to the state. If the casino doesn’t contribute at least $80 million each year through the agreement, the percentage ups to 30%. Around the same time, the Mohegan tribe would both gain federal recognition and enter a MOU, or Memorandum of Understanding with the CT government, allowing them to offer slots with the same 25% cut going to the state.
By 1996, both tribes had operational casinos with video slots in place, and waters were relatively calm in Connecticut. Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods had exclusive rights to offer a full casino experience including table games and video slots, but challengers lay in wait. Fast forward to 2015, and the two tribes have enjoyed nearly two decades of exclusive rights to casino gambling in CT. A little too quiet, perhaps.
Connecticut Tribes go off-reservation
Connecticut legislators floated the idea of allowing off-reservation casinos to be run by the Mashantucket Pequot and the Mohegan in the form of Senate Bill 1090. The two tribes created the joint venture MMCT (Mashantucket Pequot Mohegan CT) as a response, to begin the process of rolling out casinos in more locations in the state. Enter challengers MGM and the Schaghticoke tribe, both of whom would unsuccessfully attempt to challenge this proposed framework (SA 15-7) by arguing that giving the two tribes exclusive rights to casinos was a violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. As we’ll see, the Schaghticoke seem to have remained quiet about the dismissal of their case, but MGM didn’t get over this loss of a potential revenue stream in CT.
MGM files suit again, to be dismissed… again
Two years after the SA 15-7 framework became law, MGM brought yet another suit arguing that it should be able to compete for potential casino locations in CT and still had plans to break ground in Bridgeport, about an hour from the MA border. At the same time, a location in East Windsor was chosen by the tribes’ joint venture MMCT as the site for their first off-reservation casino, Tribal Winds, as legalized by the SA 15-7 framework.
MGM protested the decision to allow MMCT to operate off-reservation, arguing with the Department of the Interior that these decisions were in violation of the IGRA and previous amendments. Four claims were made by MGM and summarily dismissed, but MGM continued to protest. The proposed location for the MMCT-owned Tribal Winds in East Windsor is a mere 12 miles away from MGM’s Massachusetts location in Springfield, which itself is right down the road from the Basketball Hall of Fame. At the very least, MGM will lose out on some CT-based bettors who might not be as inclined to travel to Massachusetts.
2018 to Current
In 2018 the federal law prohibiting sports betting, PASPA, was deemed unconstitutional by the SCOTUS. In the time since many states have leapt at the chance to put legislation on the books, including Connecticut. That same year, after MGM’s second spate of lawsuits, HB 5307 was proposed in order to remove the two tribes’ exclusive grasp on betting in CT, but died at the House. In the years since, debate has raged over who will be allowed to offer sports betting in-state. Ultimately the state’s two tribes and the Connecticut Lottery got the nod, officially launching Connecticut online sports betting in October 2021.