Connecticut inched closer to legalizing sports betting and online gambling Wednesday with votes by a legislative committee to send gaming-expansion bills to the floors of the Senate and House of Representatives.
The Public Safety and Security Committee action places before the full General Assembly a deal recently struck by the administration of Gov. Ned Lamont with the Mashantucket Pequots and Mohegans, the tribal nations with exclusive rights to casino gambling.
The committee action was expected but nonetheless represents a milestone in the Lamont administration’s struggle to navigate the legal and historical complexities of tribal compacts, changing market dynamics and conflicting parochial interests of legislative voting blocs.
Various elements of the deal and related issues are in three bills, one proposed by the administration and two by lawmakers. A fourth would allow the tribes to develop a casino in Bridgeport, an enterprise neither tribe wants to undertake.
The governor’s bill, which is certain to evolve before a floor vote in either chamber, was approved on a bipartisan vote of 20-2, with three absences, and sent to the House, as was a related measure addressing consumer protections.
A bill authored by Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, whose district is home to both tribes, would direct a portion of the new gambling revenue to local aid for municipalities. It was approved and sent to the Senate.
With the committee facing a deadline this week for reporting out legislation, the panel sent the bills forward as works in progress, a common approach to complex legislation. Unresolved are issues such as whether bets should be allowed on collegiate sports in Connecticut, regulatory oversight and protections against problem gambling.
“This is an ongoing conversation,” said Rep. Maria Horn, D-Salisbury, the committee co-chair. “There are details to be worked out.”