April 21, 2022 Sports Betting, Tribal, iGaming

Lessons from legalization of online gambling in Connecticut

By

Ten-year journey paying big dividends in first five months.

Despite being a small state surrounded by competition from its neighbors, Connecticut has exceeded expectations since it launched online sports betting and iGaming.

That was the message from a panel of representatives from the Mashnatucket Pequot Tribal Nation, who spoke Wednesday at the National Indian Gaming Association’s Tradeshow and Convention in Anaheim, California.

Anika Howard, president and CEO of Mashnatucket Pequot Interactive, noted tribal casino gaming has a lengthy history in the state, but it did not make online sports betting and iGaming available until October 2021. The new initiatives are on pace to outperform the original, first-year projections of $180m by more than 100%.

“Overall, it has been an interesting and positive experience for the market,” Howard told the audience. “In five months, sports betting is approaching $1bn in handle. After we launched online, we opened a sportsbook at Foxwoods Casino. About 90% of sports betting is online, with about 10% retail.”

Rodney Butler, Chairman of the Mashnatucket Pequot Tribal Nation, said the journey to offering an online product started 10 years ago.

“We were focused more on iGaming rather than sports betting,” he recalled. “Social gaming was used as a foundation. When the Supreme Court decision came down, we realized we could get sports betting. Lobbying started about three years ago.”

According to Butler, the speed of the process of the state’s lawmakers passing legislation to implementation was “breathtaking.”

“We knew we would be successful, but we didn’t think it would go as quickly as it has. We are off to a phenomenal start.”

Jody Cummings, General Counsel for the Mashnatucket Pequot Tribal Nation, noted much of the groundwork to make online services go live started before he took his position with the tribe in 2020.

“Everybody was ready, just making sure all agreements got done and the compact amendment language everyone could agree upon in place,” he said of those busy months early in his tenure. “Everyone had to be as efficient as possible. We spent the summer of 2021 making sure all of the state regulations would be in place.

The partnership between the Mashnatucket Pequot and the Mohegan Tribe was “absolutely critical,” Cummings emphasized.

“The tribes needed to stay together in negotiations with the representatives from the state,” he said.

Added Butler: “For any point on which we were not aligned, the people from the governor’s office were like sharks with blood in the water.”

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