A week after a marathon sports betting hearing in Connecticut, the state’s Joint Public Safety and Security Committee has filed a bill that would legalize state-wide mobile sports betting and would allow casinos, OTBs and the state lottery to offer sports betting — but only if the state can negotiate a new compact with the two Indian tribes that run the state’s existing casinos.
The bill was one of three the committee filed relating to sports betting on Thursday, and all three are set for a public hearing on Tuesday. The other two bills are HB 7334, which would create a new commission on gaming, and SB 1015, which would allow the lottery to go online and offer new “draw” games.
But HB 7331 is the key bill. Connecticut has vigorously explored legalizing sports betting over the last two years, but has failed to do so, as it has been unable to renegotiate the tribal compacts in order to preserve the revenue the tribes pay the state. The tribes contend that they have the exclusive right to sports betting in the state. Given that HB 7331 would legalize sports betting through commercial vendors as well, lawmakers appear to be attempting to find a way to mollify all stakeholders.
Who could operate sports betting in Connecticut? Tribes, MGM, CT Lottery and off-track locations all angle for piece of the new industry https://t.co/iNfu2YyvlJ
— Hartford Courant (@hartfordcourant) February 7, 2019
New approach to pro leagues
An unique twist in the bill would require the state to “seek partnerships” with professional sports leagues and governing bodies in the hopes of hosting events. The bill reads:
The Commissioner of Economic and Community Development shall seek partnerships with professional sports leagues and governing bodies to promote sports activities and economic development in this state. The commissioner shall contact representatives of Major League Baseball, the Professional Golfers’ Association, the Ladies Professional Golf Association, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, the National Football League, Major League Soccer, the National Women’s Soccer League and any other professional sports league or governing body the commissioner identifies.
And by July 2020, the commissioner would be required to report activities during the preceding year in developing partnerships with professional sports leagues and governing bodies and “scheduling events in the state,” with the goal of scheduling “at least three major professional events in the state each year.”
The nature of the partnerships is vague, but evidently Connecticut doesn’t want to give any “fee” or “royalty” away for nothing.
While the bill would legalize state-wide mobile sports betting, it would also require in-person registration to get an account started. Consumers could register at a casino, OTB or one of the state’s lottery offices. This is in contrast to New Jersey and soon Pennsylvania, which permit sports bettors to register for accounts remotely.
Among key changes in the political landscape that could affect the legalization of sports betting is that Connecticut has a new governor who has gone on record as saying he supports sports betting.
Rhode Island is the only New England state to legalize and launch sports betting to date. It offers sports betting at two brick-and-mortar casinos, and is on the verge of legalizing state-wide mobile sports betting. Rhode Island will also require in-person registration for mobile betting. Every New England state has a sports betting bill filed, including Massachusetts, where 15 bills have been filed.
Below, highlights of HB 7331:
Mobile Betting? Yes
In-person registration required? Yes
Tax rate: 9.89 percent of adjusted gross revenue
Application/renewal fee: $100,000/$100,000
Legal to bet on college games?: Yes
Fee to pro leagues: Potentially, through partnerships
Use of “official league data” mandated?: No
Regulatory body: Commissioner of Consumer Protection
Where the money goes: General Fund, with .5 percent earmarked for Regional Behavior Health Action Organization.
Cap on number of licenses available? No