Editorial: A Missed Opportunity in Sports Betting
Sports betting wouldn’t solve all of Connecticut’s problems, and it’s no substitute for a comprehensive plan for growth. But it could have provided a little bit of help to a cash-strapped state, and legislators have let yet another opportunity pass them by.
Back in May, when a U.S. Supreme Court decision opened the gates for states to allow sports betting, Connecticut was among those that seemed ready to go. A workable framework of a bill was already in the legislature, and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said he expected to call a special session to make sports betting legal. It could have meant $20 million a year in revenue.
Sports betting in Connecticut is already widespread, and by putting it under state control, it would offer consumers some protections and accountability, along with badly needed revenue for the state.
Sadly, the state legislature — even though it had a good plan and all the inspiration it needed — couldn’t agree on how to proceed. And now, as House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said, “We’re leaving that money on the table.
New Jersey didn’t hesitate. In July, $40.6 million in sports wagers were placed in the Garden State, leading to $325,646 in tax revenue.
Failure to act has become a hallmark of this legislature, which only one year ago was steeped in a months-long crisis when it couldn't agree on a budget. Had the legislature moved with a sense of urgency at the beginning of the 2017 legislative session, a lot of pain could have been avoided. Instead, it dithered.
That lack of urgency is incomprehensible in a state that’s facing a shortfall of billions of dollars.
It’s not that legalized gambling doesn’t raise a host of good questions — it does, and as Deputy House Speaker Robert Godfrey, D-Danbury, said, “This needs a full public vetting.”
So why didn’t the legislature get on that full public vetting months ago? Now, “We’re going to be behind the curve with neighboring states,” Mr. Aresimowicz said.
One of the issues involves what percentage of the wagers will go to professional sports leagues. That’s caused some concerns among legislators, but surely those details could be discussed and negotiated — they shouldn’t forestall the entire process. New Jersey was able to figure it out. Why not Connecticut?
Mr. Aresimowicz said the measure didn’t have enough votes to pass. That seems like a punt, not strong leadership.
The delay has meant that Gov. Malloy hasn’t been able to begin negotiations with the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes, which argue that the terms of their deal with the state allow them exclusive rights to offer sports betting. It’s likely that a settlement could be found, but first, the legislature needs to have a clear plan so that negotiations can proceed.
Now, the question will wait until next year, when there is a new governor and, possibly, a new balance of power in the legislature. How much money will New Jersey have collected by then?
A legislature that embarrassed itself in its inability to get a budget together last year and scraped for every last dime should have been able to agree to move quickly on sports betting once the opportunity presented itself. Instead, legislators walked away from it.
Legislators running for re-election should be prepared to explain to voters before November whether they’ve been part of the solution or part of the problem.
Read original story here: http://www.courant.com/opinion/editorials/hc-ed-sports-betting-20180829-story.html