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Tribes Reach Gaming Deal

Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Chairman Rodney Butler (via Zoom). Courtesy CTNewsJunkie.com

Both the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and the Mohegan Tribe, as well as the Connecticut Lottery, have agreed to the plan.

By Christine Stuart, CTNewsJunkie.com 

Gov. Ned Lamont reached a deal with both tribal nations Thursday that will allow the state to expand online gaming and add sports betting.

Mashantucket Pequot Tribe Chairman Rodney Butler and Mohegan Tribe Chairman James Gessner Jr. joined Lamont for the announcement via press release.

The 10-year agreement also allows the Connecticut Lottery to partner in the effort and it will need the approval of the Connecticut General Assembly followed by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The agreement, which is not much different than the one Lamont announced earlier this month with just the Mohegan Tribe, includes an 18% tax rate for the first five years on new online commercial casino gaming, followed by a 20% tax rate for at least the next five years and a 13.75% tax rate on sports wagering.

Keeping that rate at 18 % in the first five years was crucial to getting the Mashantucket Pequots over the finish line for a deal.

The deal allows the Connecticut Lottery to operate 15 retail sports betting locations, as well as operate an online sports betting skin or license. Connecticut Lottery shall also have the right to sublicense locations to the state-licensed parimutuel operator.

Sportech, which currently operates the state’s off-track-betting facilities, has threatened to sue the state if this deal goes through.

“Sportech supports expanded gaming in the State; however Federal and State law mandates a level playing field,” the company said in a statement. “Today’s announcement does not appear to offer that level playing field; Connecticut consumers will be deprived of a healthy competitive betting marketplace and the Connecticut jobs that Sportech supports will be at risk.”

Lamont said it was a good deal.

“We have reached a good agreement. An agreement that allows the tribes to grow and prosper in terms of iCasino games, it allows the iLottery led by Rob Simmelkjaer to continue to expand that and the three of us together will be involved in sports betting,” Lamont said Thursday at an unrelated press conference.

“Our state’s tribal partners have worked with my administration thoughtfully, deliberately, and in a constructive fashion for the past few months, and we have achieved an agreement that is best for Connecticut residents and their respective tribal members,” he said in a press release.

The General Assembly still has to ratify it.

“It is my sincere hope that today’s agreement signals the beginning of a new approach by the State of Connecticut to working with and valuing two of our largest, minority-owned businesses who employ thousands of state residents, who contribute billions to our economy, who have a world-wide reputation, and who have been steadfast economic partners with Connecticut for almost 30 years,” Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, said.

Osten said she expects the General Assembly will vote in favor of the agreement in the next week or so. The revenue isn’t part of next year’s budget, but it’s expected to increase revenue to the state for years to come.

“For the state of Connecticut it adds, starting off with about $200 million in increased revenue, going up to over $400 million for the state of Connecticut,” Osten said.

The two tribes have told Osten that they could begin offering iGaming and sports betting before July 1.

“For the state of Connecticut it adds, starting off with about $200 million in increased revenue, going up to over $400 million for the state of Connecticut,” Osten said.

Connecticut Lottery Corporation Chairman Rob Simmelkjaer says the deal with the tribes was the biggest hurdle to moving forward.

“This was a really big obstacle. The biggest obstacle to getting any of this done,” Simmelkjaer said.

Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Chairman Rodney Butler said it wasn’t easy.

“Ultimately there was additional movement on the tax rates and some of the marketing issues and on the retail sports betting there was an outstanding conversation,” Butler said.

As far as letting the Lottery participate, Butler says it’s manageable competition. The hardest part was agreeing to a deal in continuing with the East Windsor casino. The tribes have spent about $20 million on getting a casino up and running in East Windsor. The casino was expected to compete with the MGM casino in Springfield, MA.

“For me the commitment we’ve had to East Windsor and the belief in that project quite frankly was the most difficult part to agreeing to a delay in this as a part of this deal,” Butler said.

Republished with permission from CTNewsJunkie.com, all rights reserved.

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