Gov. Ned Lamont expects $50 million in revenue by 2022 from iGaming, iLottery and online sports wagering; tribes say they are ‘really close’ to deal with state

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Stephen Singer, Hartford Courant
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Gov. Ned Lamont penciled in $50 million in revenue from new digital gambling platforms in his two-year budget released Wednesday, betting that the legislature and Connecticut’s two tribal casinos will approve sweeping changes in the state’s gambling enterprises.

The governor, legislative leaders, Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino have negotiated unsuccessfully in the past few years an agreement to expand gambling to digital platforms such as the internet, phone apps and sports betting. The sides now are close to agreement, prodded by a shared need for revenue cut sharply by the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our neighboring states are moving forward with sports betting and iGaming and Connecticut should not leave these opportunities for other states to benefit from our inaction,” Lamont said in his budget address to the General Assembly.

Lamont’s budget anticipates revenue from sports betting, iGaming and iLottery.

Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, which owns Foxwoods, said the governor’s revenue projection based on sports betting and digital gambling “shows a level of commitment.”

Butler said the Lamont administration and casinos are “really, really close” in reaching agreement on legislation.

“We’re at the one-yard line. We just need to punt it in,” he said.

James Gessner Jr., chairman of the Mohegan Tribe, said said Connecticut is poised this year to “modernize its gaming laws, realize significant new state revenue and grow our local economy, just as neighboring states are already doing.”

Even as the tribes negotiate with Lamont, money the governor budgeted in his spending plan is “very much achievable through an agreement with the tribal nations,” he said.

Lamont said his administration has been in “active negotiations” with the tribes “to bring the state’s gaming economy into the digital age.” He said he is submitting legislation that he believes is the “best bet in ending this stalemate of inaction.”

The $50 million in expected revenue for the fiscal year beginning July 2022 is a conservative estimate and will likely grow with added digital gaming, he said.

Melissa McCaw, Lamont’s budget director, said at a budget briefing that “modernizing the industry is critically important.”

“We believe there’s alignment with our tribal partners on that goal,” she said.

The tribes say their state compacts that have resulted in more than $8 billion in slot revenue to Connecticut since the early 1990s gives them exclusive rights to gambling. Commercial operators of casinos and sports betting are fighting efforts that would block them from competing for gambling business.

Sports betting operates in 20 states, including in neighboring New York and Rhode Island and nearby New Hampshire, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, according to the American Gaming Association.

It’s legal, but not yet operating in five states.

In New Jersey, internet gambling generated nearly $1 billion in revenue last year, doubled from 2019, and delivered $145 million to the state, according to Howard Glaser, global head of government affairs and special initiatives at Scientific Games Corp., a Las Vegas gambling and lottery company.

In Pennsylvania, online lottery sales were $1 billion by May 2020 after its first year, he said.

Stephen Singer can be reached at ssinger@courant.com.