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Lawmakers Aim To Bridge The Gap On Sports Betting At Start Of Legislative Session

Ned Lamont at the 2020 State of the State address
Joe Amon
Connecticut Public Radio
Lawmakers applaud Gov. Ned Lamont during his State of the State address at the General Assembly, February 5, 2020.

Proposals on how to introduce sports betting in Connecticut are beginning to take shape now that the 2020 legislative session has begun.

Gov. Ned Lamont briefly touched on the issue in his State of the State address Wednesday.

“I want to work with you to ensure we stand up a responsible sports betting platform that promotes economic growth for our state and is fair to our tribal partners,” Lamont said.

State Rep. Joe Verrengia (D-West Hartford) spoke to Connecticut Public Radio after the speech, saying that he will introduce his sports betting proposal in the next week.

He chairs the Public Safety and Security committee that pushed several sports betting-related bills to the floor of the General Assembly last session.

“Unlike previous years where we wanted to make sports betting part of a comprehensive gaming policy -- I think if we’re truly committed to getting a bill passed, it has to be a stand-alone bill,” Verrengia said.

Verrengia is wary of alienating entities that already do business with the state, like the Connecticut Lottery and off-track betting establishments. He thinks they should be included in the proposal.

That differs from the path Lamont is taking. The governor is working on something that both tribes, who have compacts with the state allowing them to operate casino gambling, can get behind.

The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes believe the accords give them the sole right to take sports bets. Lamont has been negotiating with tribal leadership because the agreements would have to be amended in order for the tribes to get any piece of the sports betting pie.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats have a more radical plan in mind -- a sweeping measure meant to please different stakeholders. It grants the tribes exclusive rights to hold sports betting, and it unites those tribes with lawmakers who want a casino built in Bridgeport.

Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney (D-New Haven) said the bill tries to satisfy a lot of interests.

“I think that’ll be a starting point for negotiations in many ways,” Looney said.

At least 13 states allow residents to bet on sporting events, including neighboring New York and Rhode Island.

Connecticut could be next -- or not.

“All this could be set up for a grand bargain that could come fairly quickly, or it could be an exercise in just continuing to try to get there,” said House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz (D-Berlin).

Frankie Graziano is the host of The Wheelhouse, focusing on how local and national politics impact the people of Connecticut.

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