Connecticut Gambling Laws


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When it comes to gambling, players must consider the odds in order to be successful while playing. The Connecticut State Legislature seems to also be weighing the odds–whether to let online gambling become legal. The state is already home to two tribal casinos, a state lottery, and other forms of gambling, such as bingo and greyhound racing.

The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection Gaming Division oversees all legal forms of gambling operations in the state, as well as the tribal nations that operate casinos within Connecticut. The Gaming Division requires that any entity wishing to participate in or organize any form of gambling, whether for profit or for charity, is properly licensed and knowledgeable in terms of state gambling statutes.[1]

With many available forms of gambling already regulated by the state, it would make sense that the majority of Connecticut residents looking to play a game of online poker without having to leave the house would expect their legislature to push to be one of the first states to legalize online gambling. But Connecticut Senate and House members don’t seem ready to make a move–yet.

The Gaming Division’s summation on the legality of Internet gambling within the Constitution State doesn’t leave much gray area. “The State of Connecticut and the Department of Consumer Protection Gaming Division do not authorize, license, permit, or regulate in any manner any Internet gambling in any form. Under General Statutes of Connecticut Section 53-278a(2), any gambling activity in Connecticut is illegal unless specifically authorized by law.”[2]

But in December, 2011, the Department of Justice revisited the Wire Act of 1961 and basically ruled that the act applied only to sports betting via the Internet. After that, many states, including Connecticut, immediately gave online gambling more serious attention. So much so that after the ruling was handed down, Connecticut Gov. Dan Mallory acknowledged that there wasn’t much any law, or any lawmaker, could do to stop online gambling. “We’re going to have Internet gambling in Massachusetts, in Connecticut, in Rhode Island, in California, in Nevada and Mississippi and Alabama and I could go through all fifty states because the Internet is the Internet. You don’t turn off the Internet at any state’s borders. If it’s allowed in one state, it will appear in every state.”[3]

However, as confident as the governor seemed in his statements, Connecticut State Rep. Stephen Dargan said during an online gambling information forum held by the Connecticut Legislature’s Public Safety and Security Committee in early February of 2012 that he is almost certain that there won’t be any online gambling legislation coming out of the Connecticut legislature in 2012. [4]

Two obvious gambling proponents, the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot Tribes, who own Connecticut’s two tribal casinos, Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino, also took part in the hearing. The tribes urged legislators to take the next step, saying that Internet wagering is already taking place, and legalizing it would only make sense and that by not legalizing online gambling, the state is missing out on untold amounts of profit.

Foxwoods Co. Director of Development Anshu Z. Kalhan summed up both tribes’ sentiments with one statement. “The profits and jobs are all currently going off-shore with no benefit to the state of Connecticut.”[5]

Bingo, Greyhounds, Mohegans and Mashantucket–Connecticut’s History of Gambling

The State of Connecticut first legalized bingo back in 1939 as a way for properly licensed non-profit organizations to raise money. Sixteen years later, in 1955, raffles and bazaars became legal. Connecticut non-profit organizations were also able to organize and raise funds with casino-style games during “Las Vegas Nights,” until the Connecticut legislature repealed that law in 2006. The Connecticut State Lottery was introduced in 1972 by the Commission of Special Revenue. That regulatory body oversaw the lottery until the creation of the Connecticut Lottery Corporation in 1996. Off-track betting, greyhound racing and jai alai also have been legal forms of gambling since the mid-1970s. [6]

So gambling in many forms was nothing new to the State of Connecticut when the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation opened a high-stakes bingo hall in 1986. Six years later in 1992, the nation opened Foxwoods Resort Casino. The tribe overcame centuries of poverty and strife to become owners of the largest casino in the United States, and the second largest in the world. Foxwoods has 380 gaming tables and more than 7,000 slot machines. Four years later, the Mohegan Tribe opened Mohegan Sun, which hails as the second largest gambling destination in the U.S. Mohegan Sun offers three separate casinos with more than 180 tables and 3,000 slot machines.[7]

Congress’s passing of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act[8] (IGRA) in 1988 paved the way for tribes all over the United States to open casinos or bingo halls. The IGRA recognized the tribes’ sovereignty but required that all tribes that operate casinos or any form of gambling establishment enter into Tribal-State compacts, or agreements. The IGRA also gave the federal government gaming regulation authority.

As part of their Tribal-State compacts with the State of Connecticut, both tribes contribute 25 percent of their revenue from slot machines to the state. In 2011 alone, Mohegan Sun sent more than $186 million in slot profits to the State of Connecticut. Foxwoods contributed more than $174 million.

Indecision on Internet Gambling Legislation Leaves Future Murky

For all the decades that the state has enjoyed some form of profit from regulated forms of gambling, Connecticut is at a sort of crossroads. Even though the governor has predicted the inevitability of Internet gambling legislation, the legislature’s unwillingness to roll the dice on the matter may be preventing some Connecticut residents from gambling online. Another roadblock may be the agreement with Connecticut’s tribal casinos that bans other casinos from operating in the state. If the law were to be amended to allow online gambling, some of the current revenue provided by the tribes would undoubtedly be lost. That said, the potential revenue from online gambling proceeds could offset that loss and also could be quite large with the legalization of interstate gambling.

There are no current bills before the Connecticut legislature regarding online gambling. However, expect Connecticut to jump on the bandwagon once other states are up and running with online poker sites. Connecticut may not lead the way in online gambling legislation as Nevada is doing, but they are sure to follow suit in due course.

Citations and References

[1] http://www.ct.gov/dcp/cwp/view.asp?a=4107&q=480854
[2] Connecticut Gaming Division’s stance on online gambling – Connecticut Government Site
[3] Dan Mallory comments on online gambling in Connecticut – Hartford Courant article
[4] Stephen Dargan doubts Connecticut will legalize online gambling in 2012 – NHregister report
[5] Foxwoods director of development comments on current laws – CBS News
[6] Legal forms of gambling in Connecticut – Dept. of Consumer Protection
[7] Native American gaming in the United States – Wikipedia.org
[8] Indian Gaming Regulatory Act – National Indian Gaming Commission