Legislators bet on sports and online gambling to increase state revenues
By Emilie Munson
HARTFORD — Teaser bets. Parlays. Moneyline. Pools. A Supreme Court decision may soon give Connecticut the option to crack open the world of sports betting — legal wagering, that is — to its residents.
Poised to be ready, the cash-strapped state is looking hopefully at the growth of gaming to increase its revenues. The legislature’s Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee will vote on approving and taxing sports betting and online lottery sales by the end of the week.
Among hours of public testimony Monday, the committee heard input on its proposal to impose a 15 percent on tax sports wagering gross revenue, paid by betting operators.
Connecticut could generate approximately $100 million in tax revenues over the first five years of legalization, predicted New Haven-based wagering company Sportech.
But Sportech and others questioned whether 15 percent was the best rate to support both the state and a legal industry.
“At this level of taxation, it will be difficult for the legal operators to price the sports betting offerings to compete with the existing black market,” said Dan Shapiro, vice president of Strategy and Business Development for sports betting company William Hill US, which operates in Nevada — the only state where such betting is now legal — and internationally.
A Supreme Court ruling that would open sports betting to other states is widely expected by summer.
Connecticut casinos, race-tracks, the state lottery and other companies could be authorized to conduct sports betting, after the ruling with General Assembly approval.
Heartily supporting sports betting, the Lottery Corp. said, as a state agency, it would give all of its new profits to the state after winnings and salaries are paid out.
Heads of the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes were not thrilled that the bill might allow other groups to get a slice of Connecticut gambling. A 25-year-old compact has given them an exclusive right to some gaming forms in exchange for paying a quarter of their slot machine revenue to the state.
“It is the Tribe’s position that sports gambling, daily fantasy sports betting, and iGaming fall under the exclusivity agreement,” Seth Young, executive director of Online Gaming at Foxwoods Resort Casino.
Meanwhile, the National Basketball League and Major League Baseball championed the sports betting bill, particularly a section of it that would give their organizations a .25 percent cut of wagering revenues.
“The sport betting business is built on our games,” said Morgan Sword, senior vice president of League Economics and Operations for Major League Baseball. He said the money would cover education for players and umpires on sports betting and infrastructure for collecting the data that fans would bet on.
The Public Safety and Security Committee already approved a bill on regulating sports betting earlier this month.
As for moving lottery ticket sales online, the Lottery Corp. applauded the switch, predicting it would increase sales and generate $45 to 50 million more revenue for the state over the first five years of implementation.
But several energy and convenience store groups worried for their businesses if the change took affect.
“If the CLC is allowed to put its draw games online, it will become, by definition, a retailer, and will establish itself as a direct competitor to convenience retailers,” said Jonathan Shaer, executive director of the New England Convenience Store and Energy Marketers Association.
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