Connecticut Lawmaker Says Any Internet Gambling Law Would Have to bo “OK With Tribes”

Because of political and economic several states are racing to legalize internet gambling. Most gaming experts believe that there will be no federal action on the Reid-Kyl bill this year leaving legalization up to the states. A key Connecticut legislator said that the state should take up the matter when the assembly reconvenes in January. Representative Stephen Dargan, co-chairman of the legislative public safety committee, which oversees legalized gambling, stated “Absolutely, it’s something we need to look at.”

Early last year Connecticut legislators considered internet gambling but didn’t take any action despite the ruling by the Justice Department in December 2011 that the 1961 Wire Act prohibits online sports betting, but not other forms of Internet gambling. Since the ruling several states have moved swiftly to legalize internet gambling. States include New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada. Nevada has already issued several online poker licenses for intrastate poker. Dargan, of West Haven, said in an interview that he expects his committee to consider internet gambling because the state is facing continuing budget deficits and needs to find new revenue streams. Revenues at tribal casinos in Connecticut continue to diminish.

Last year Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy was less than enthusiastic about internet gambling and observers say that there has been no change in Malloy’s attitude. One of Malloy’s top political lieutenants told reporters “Certainly, it’s the legislature’s prerogative” to consider internet gambling “but it’s not something that the governor has any intention of pushing.” Senior Malloy adviser Roy Occhiogrosso said “It’s not something he supports” and added “it’s not something he thinks the legislature will follow through and send him a bill on.” When asked if Malloy would veto any internet gambling legislation Occhiogrosso said that the decision cannot be made “until you actually see a piece of legislation on your desk.”

The state’s agreement with the two tribal casinos Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun could be a major obstacle to the legalization of internet gambling in Connecticut. Under the current agreement each casino gives the state 25% of their slot machine revenues. The state predicts that the tribal casinos will give the state over $305 million by the end of this fiscal year on June 30, 2013. House majority leader Brendan Sharkey, who will be house speaker when the assembly reconvenes, said he will not support internet gambling that would disrupt the agreements with the tribes. Sharkey said any internet gambling bill would have to be written in a way that is “OK with the tribes.” It will be interesting to see what happens when the legislature reconvenes in January.

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