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Lottery hosts vendors making pitch for online play, sports betting

Rocky Hill — Connecticut Lottery Corp. officials hosted vendors Friday, the latest move in the quasi-public agency’s bid to win legislation that would enable it to sell most of its products — including, potentially, sports betting — over the internet and on mobile devices.

If it can’t do that, it’s going to have a hard time maintaining, let alone increase, its annual contribution to the state’s General Fund, lottery officials said.

Representatives of four vendors — Intralot, Scientific Games, IGT and NeoPollard — took part in Friday’s “educational forum” at lottery headquarters, demonstrating their wares for the benefit of state officials and the media. Intralot, a Greek company working with lotteries in Washington, D.C., New Mexico and other states, gave a one-hour presentation to reporters.

“Things move very slowly here,” Vasia Bakalis, Intralot’s director of marketing, said, referring to the United States. “This (online lottery sales) should have been happening years ago.”

In Europe, she said, lottery players do everything online. They don’t use cash, and they play the lottery at any time of the day or night, she said.

It’s like something right out of the 21st century.

Earlier in the week, Greg Smith, president of the Connecticut Lottery Corp., testified before a legislative committee on behalf of bills that would enable the lottery to sell tickets to its draw games online and allow the lottery — along with casino operators and the state’s off-track betting system — to provide sports betting online as well as at their bricks-and-mortar locations.

The lottery, Smith said, is an especially good bet to provide sports wagering because it would turn over all of the proceeds (after expenses) to the state, while other entities, such as the casinos, would only turn over an amount determined by the state-imposed tax on their gross revenues. The bill before the legislature puts the sports betting tax at 9.89 percent.

In addition, the lottery also touts its ability to “customize” its offerings to suit whatever form a law ultimately takes. Offering sports betting at even a small number of its 2,900 retailers would generate significant revenue, it says.

Smith emphasized that the online lottery bill involves only sales of draw games, not “instant” or “scratch” games where outcomes are known immediately.

“It’s essentially an online ticket ordering service,” the lottery says of what the bill proposes.

The lottery estimates online sale of its draw games, including Powerball, Mega Millions, Keno, Lotto and daily numbers games, will generate an additional $5 million in General Fund transfers in the first year. Over the first five years, the windfall could amount to $54 million and after a decade reach $150 million, it says.

Smith and the Intralot representatives said the introduction of online lottery sales in other states has spurred, rather than hurt, sales at retail locations. Internet lottery programs tend to capture new players who visit retail lottery locations from time to time, they said.

In Connecticut, gaming expansion has been complicated by the casino-owning Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes’ claim that their gaming agreements with the state grant them the exclusive right to offer sports betting, which they contend is “casino gaming.” The bill now before the legislature’s Public Safety and Security Committee calls for the governor and the tribes to enter into new agreements that would allow for the tribes and other entities to provide sports betting without jeopardizing the tribes' revenue-sharing agreements with the state.

Talks between Gov. Ned Lamont and the tribes “remain ongoing,” a spokesman for the governor said Friday.

In Rhode Island, where in-casino sports betting began in two locations late last year, lawmakers have passed a bill authorizing the casinos' operator to also provide online wagering on devices anywhere in the state. Gov. Gina Raimondo is expected to sign the bill, perhaps as early as next week.


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