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Connecticut needs to legalize sports betting - now

By Emmett D. Riley

The Supreme Court’s affirmative decision last year to allow the states to decide whether or not they will permit legal sports betting set in motion swift and steady changes throughout our region.

Already Rhode Island and New Jersey have legalized sports wagering, Massachusetts is actively debating the issue.

In Connecticut, we have raised a bill but that is all we have done after the better part of a year of discussion.

Even without a legalized system, no one would argue that betting on sports is not already happening in Connecticut. From placing a bet with a bookie to March Madness office pools, there are millions if not billions wagered every year in our state.

What is not happening right now in the state, unlike New Jersey and Rhode Island, is generating one single dime in tax revenue as a result of these bets.

Legalized sports wagering would change that, and it is a step we must choose sooner rather than later so we do not continue to lose new revenue to our neighboring states.

At a recent Public Safety Committee Hearing, officials from both the Mohegan Tribe and the Mashantucket Tribal Nation testified that sports wagering would bring in roughly $8 million dollars in the first year of operation. That figure would escalate to $20 million annually in year five, providing the state almost $70 million in new revenue over that five-year period. I believe this figure could be much higher.

Much of the banter in Hartford concentrates on how we can make Connecticut more competitive.

With sports wagering, we have a clear example of steps we can take to increase our competitiveness, but we have failed to act quickly.

Think of the opportunities we have missed already. Last month held what feasibly could be one of the largest betting events of the year - the Super Bowl. But we failed to act.

This month starts March Madness, a series of basketball games that will generates hundreds of millions in wagers, and yet Connecticut will collect nothing.

Our state is facing severe structural challenges, and we need to act boldly when new legal sources of revenue become available. The state should not continue to miss out.

I would like to see an early vote on a sports wagering proposal – one that works with the two federally-recognized tribes - so we can get it up and running quickly and start generating revenue that will go toward a host of critically important services, such as public education and public safety.

This is a common sense solution that will bring Connecticut in line with our neighboring states and help it capture much needed revenue. The time to act is now.

Rep. Emmett D. Riley is the Deputy Majority Leader of the 46th District, Norwich

Read original story here: https://www.norwichbulletin.com/opinion/20190317/connecticut-needs-to-legalize-sports-betting---now


McDowell Jewett