Citing massive budget deficits and declining revenues from Connecticut’s tribal casinos lawmakers are reconsidering online gambling in the state. The lame duck session of congress has begun and many in the gaming industry are hoping that legislators will take a serious look at the Reid-Kyl poker bill. Unfortunately there are no guarantees that enough support for the bill can be gained for passage. The lack of action on the bill has left states free to examine the internet gambling issue on their own. Stephen Dargan (D-West Haven), who co-chairs a committee on legislative public safety that oversees legalized gambling, told reporters “Absolutely, it’s something we need to take a look at.” Dargan told reporters that his committee is searching for more ways to raise new revenue streams in Connecticut.
Last year Connecticut considered internet gambling but the legislature failed to act on the issue. Part of the reason if Governor Daniel Malloy’s indifference to the issue. Molloy’s attitude has not changed since last year. Roy Occhiogrosso, a senior advisor to Malloy said “Certainly, it’s the legislature’s prerogative to propose online gambling legislation. But it’s not something that the governor has any intention of pushing. Occhiogrosso added that Malloy doesn’t think that the legislature will actually send him a bill on online gambling. Whether or not the governor would sign or veto such a bill is unclear until you actually see a piece of legislation on your desk.”
The state’s two tribal casinos Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods are required to give the state 25% of their slot machine revenues annually. Internet gambling legislation could interfere with the agreement between the tribes and the state. There has been talk of allowing the tribe to operate internet gambling in the state. Last month Mohegan Sun signed an agreement with Bally Technologies to operate a free to play poker site. Many see the agreement as a means to making an easy transition to real money gaming once internet gambling is legal in Connecticut.
State House Majority Leader Brendan Sharkey (D-Hamden) is opposed to internet gambling and believes that any internet gambling scheme will disrupt the compact with the tribes. Sharkey says that the tribal casinos are an economic driver for the southeastern part of the state. He also said that competition from casinos in Rhode Island and Massachusetts are already affecting revenues from tribal casinos in Connecticut. Sharkey stated “We have to do everything we can to protect [the Connecticut casinos], to keep them thriving — for their sake, and for the sake of the state.”
By Jeff Davis