Online gambling in Connecticut began at 6 a.m. Tuesday, kicking off expanded wagering that was years in the making in extended negotiations between the state and two Native American-owned casinos.
FanDuel, the partner of Mohegan Sun casino, and DraftKings, which is working with Foxwoods Resort Casino, said the first bets were on the third game Tuesday of the National League Championship Series between the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Sports betting has officially started in Connecticut as Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods celebrate opening of long-awaited casino parlors.
The state Department of Consumer Protection authorized the early-morning launch of online sports wagering and iCasino on phone apps, laptops, tablets and other devices following a one-week limited trial.
The Connecticut Lottery Corp., Mohegan Tribe and Mashantucket Pequot Tribe began offering online wagering to adults 21 and older through FanDuel and DraftKings. The Lottery has partnered with Rush Street Interactive.
The two tribes also may offer iCasino. The Department of Consumer Protection has approved more than 130 games.
Connecticut joins six other states to offer online gambling: Delaware, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, which operates Foxwoods Resort Casino, said at an online news conference that digital gambling in New Jersey and Pennsylvania has expanded the gambling market and has not depressed business at the casinos.
“We’re looking forward to positive, incremental gains for the entire state of Connecticut,” he said.
At least during the pandemic, online gambling could be a lucrative stand-in for the casinos that some visitors avoid because of COVID-19.
Adam McLaren, a senior analyst at Moody’s Investors Service, said in an Oct. 12 research note that the delta variant is rising, renewing risks to the industry that has rebounded from COVID-19. He focused on Las Vegas casinos, saying business travel is in the early stages of recovery.
“We still expect it will take time before group travel and convention returns to 2019 levels, if it does, because business travel may not return to original levels for some time, if at all,” he said.
Consumers will likely return to a more normal level of spending on gambling, slowing demand for casino business late this year and into 2022, McLaren said.
Robert T. Simmelkjaer II, chairman of the board of the Connecticut Lottery Corp., said a sharp drop in revenue during the pandemic last year spurred the casinos and Lamont administration to negotiate a deal reworking the state’s gambling landscape. Connecticut takes 25% of slot revenue and, with the casinos, takes a hit as slot revenue declines.
“They had an acute need to find a new source of revenue. And so did the state,” he said in an interview with Jared Kotler, host of the Connecticut Scoreboard Podcast. “So everybody had an incentive to get a deal done.”
Foxwoods posted about $327 million in slot machine revenue for the year that ended June 30, a drop of $116 million, or 26% from before the pandemic. Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun closed for nearly three months last year and reopened on a limited basis to stem the spread of COVID-19.
The tribes, state lawmakers and then-Gov. Dannel P. Malloy first talked up sports betting in 2018 when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law that had barred betting on football, basketball, baseball and other sports in most states. Gov. Ned Lamont resumed negotiations, which picked up speed this year.
At the center of the complicated negotiations were compacts guaranteeing exclusive gambling rights to the Mashantucket Pequots, the owners of Foxwoods, and Mohegans in return for billions of dollars in tax revenue on slot machine use.
Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods opened their sports betting sites Sept. 30 and the Lottery Corp. will soon be opening betting sites in New Haven, Stamford and Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, followed by seven other sites in the next few weeks.
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