Five key takeaways from Tuesday’s public safety committee hearings on sports betting
By Alex Putterman
For the second time in two weeks, members of Connecticut’s legislative public safety committee heard testimony Tuesday about the nuances of sports-betting legalization, specifically with regards to a proposed bill that would allow tribal casinos, off-track betting locations and the CT lottery to take bets.
Here are five key points that emerged from the hearings.
“A commercially viable number of licensed retail locations.” — CT Lottery CEO Gregory Smith
Unlike other proposed sports-betting bills, the legislation up for discussion Tuesday would anoint the CT Lottery as a sports betting operator, in addition to the tribal casinos and the off-track betting locations. Allowing the lottery to take wagers would bring sports gambling to locations across Connecticut.
Asked how many lottery retailers might have sports betting, CT Lottery CEO Gregory Smith reaffirmed his suggestion of one per town but said he’d be open to the legislature deciding what a “commercially viable” amount might be.
“To not have a definition of a casino game but then say sports betting is a casino game ... flies in the face of common sense.” - Rep. J.P. Sredzinski
As has been the case throughout the multi-year debate over sports betting legalization, tribal exclusivity was a point of contention Tuesday. The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes have persistently argued that sports betting counts as a “casino game” and is therefore covered by their compacts with the state. Former attorney general George Jepsen, among others, contested that claim last year.
During one back-and-forth Tuesday, Rep. J.P. Sredzinski asked Foxwoods executive George Henningson how he defined “casino game.” Henningson said he couldn’t provide a concrete definition, prompting Sredzinski to express skepticism that he could claim sports betting falls under that category.
“I think there are some opportunities, particularly in our empty arenas or our football fields.” — Rep. Joe Verrgengia
If the proposed sports betting bill were adopted, Connecticut would become the first state in the country to pay professional leagues a small cut of gambling revenues, as the leagues have repeatedly requested.
There would, however, be a catch. As part of the bill, leagues would be encouraged to work with Connecticut to promote economic development through sporting events. Public safety committee chairman Rep. Joe Verrengia said he hopes for a “win-win” partnership between the leagues and the state.
NBA senior vice president Dan Spillane, who testified Tuesday, could not yet name specific ways his league could engage with Connecticut but said an agreement such as the one in the proposed bill would incentivize the league to do so.
“If we’re choosing where we’re going to do our deals, a state where we actually have an economic stake in betting being a success is going to stand out,” he said.
“Expansion of legalized gambling in Connecticut ... will likely increase gambling problems unless safeguards are established to minimize harm.” — Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling executive director Diana Goode
In addition to the bill proposing legalized sports betting, the public-safety committee heard testimony Tuesday about legislation that would fund compulsive gambling services. That bill would distribute 25 percent of all sports betting revenue to treatment and rehabilitation, including 5 percent to the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling.
CCPG executive director Diana Goode said she wouldn’t advocate for or against legal sports betting but hoped any legislation would not only designate ample money for treatment but also establish a gambling commission, designate a consistent minimum age for betting, conduct surveys on gambling addiction and require betting operators to implement responsible-gambling programs.
“We would like to be up and running by the next NFL season.” — Sportech president Ted Taylor
Though sports betting legalization has plenty of hurdles to clear before it becomes law in Connecticut, many stakeholders are already itching to accept bets. That became abundantly clear Tuesday when Ted Taylor, president of Sportech (which operates Connecticut’s 16 off-track betting locations), pointed to the start of the 2019 NFL season as a possible target.
Taylor said once sports betting was legalized, Sportech would need at least three months to establish the infrastructure for sports betting before it could begin taking wagers.
Read the original story here: https://www.courant.com/politics/government-watch/hc-pol-connecticut-sports-betting-hearings-20190312-blgmf2cl2zh5tj43qtduonhqo4-story.html?utm_source=CTNewsJunkie+Main+List+With+Publication+Groups&utm_campaign=29c8155e1e-MCP&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_a493d2308d-29c8155e1e-95904241