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State And Tribes Reach Comprehensive Agreement On Gambling Expansion

Frankie Graziano
Connecticut Public Radio
Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Chairman Rodney Butler

Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration reached an agreement Thursday with Connecticut's two federally recognized Native American tribes on a comprehensive gambling expansion plan that could eventually lead to sports wagering and online gambling in the state. 

The governor announced the deal with the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes, which operate the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos. 

“I think we have reached a good agreement,” Lamont said. “An agreement that allows the tribes to grow and prosper.”

The announcement comes two weeks after the state said it had come to terms with the Mohegan Tribe. At that point, the Mashantucket Pequots wouldn’t agree to the 20% tax the state wanted to impose on online wagers. This latest comprehensive agreement represents a compromise. The state will take 18% for the first five years and then 20% for the five years after that. It also allows the Connecticut Lottery to operate retail sports betting locations across the state. 

Lamont said the agreement would generate tens of millions of dollars for Connecticut. The tribes will also halt development on an East Windsor casino for the duration of the agreement. That project was already indefinitely on hold.

Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Chairman Rodney Butler said Thursday afternoon that the agreement would likely contribute to about 10% to 15% of Foxwoods’ current operations.

“We expect it to be a nice bump, which will help us,” Butler said. “But we don’t see it surpassing our land-based revenues anytime in the near future, or distant future for that matter.”

The deal still needs approval from the state legislature and federal regulators.

“We still need the approvals from the Department of Interior. And Connecticut still needs to implement the gaming regulations, which will be required by the law,” Butler said. “From a technology perspective, we’re ready to go.” 

Butler said the agreement wouldn’t have any immediate negative impacts on staffing at Foxwoods. The casino has scaled back operations significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re at the bottom of the trough now from a staffing perspective,” Butler said. “We’re still managing through half the revenues that we were seeing pre-pandemic. And so we’re still hovering around just above 2,000 employees, down from our peak of 5,000 pre-pandemic.”

“We’ll be adding back staff naturally,” Butler said. “Hopefully to the same level as we were pre-pandemic, and we don’t see this as having an impact on that.”

Lamont and Butler both expressed optimism Thursday that state and federal regulatory hurdles could be dealt with quickly and that online gaming would be happening in a matter of months.

Connecticut Public Radio’s Matt Dwyer and Ali Warshavsky contributed to this report. This report contains information from the Associated Press.