Could special session on sports betting take up other gambling matters?

If Gov. Dannel P. Malloy calls a special legislative session to consider legalizing sports betting in the state, could lawmakers also revisit other gambling-related business left unfinished at the end of the regular session?

That’s a question to be answered by legislative leaders who would draft the agenda of a special session, Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, said late last week. Malloy has indicated he plans to meet Wednesday with legislative leaders to discuss scheduling a special session.

Members of the Bridgeport and New Haven delegations could push for action on a bill that calls for the start of a competitive-bidding process that eventually could lead to a commercial casino in the state — a measure pushed by MGM Resorts International and opposed by southeastern Connecticut’s casino-owning tribes, the Mashantucket Pequots and the Mohegans.

Narrowly approved by the House, the bill never came to a Senate vote before the session adjourned May 9.

Osten, whose district includes the tribes’ casinos, said Friday that the bill — widely seen as intended to facilitate an MGM Bridgeport casino proposal — wouldn't come to a vote in a special session. She made a similar assertion near the end of the regular session, saying too few senators support the measure.

“The only other thing I would want to address (besides sports betting) is the fact that I don’t think we need the BIA to support the East Windsor project,” Osten said, referring to a 2017 state law that authorized the tribes to develop a casino in north-central Connecticut to fend off competition from MGM Springfield, a Massachusetts casino scheduled to open this summer. The law requires that the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs sign off on the tribes’ amended gaming agreements with the state, which the department has refused to do.

Osten said she would urge lawmakers to amend the law to eliminate the need for the state and the tribes to secure the federal approval.

The tribes’ agreements with the state are also central to the discussion of legalizing sports betting after a U.S. Supreme Court decision last week struck down the federal law that prohibited states from taking such a step.

While the tribes believe their existing agreements grant them the exclusive right to provide sports betting in the state, a proposed bill would authorize other entities in addition to the tribes to provide such wagering.

Tribal officials met privately last week with Malloy and a representative of the state attorney general’s office to discuss the issue.


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