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UPDATED: Mashantuckets, DraftKings announce sports-betting partnership

Mashantucket — With the Connecticut legislature’s next session approaching, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe announced Monday it has reached a deal with DraftKings, the Boston-based sports-betting operator, to provide online gaming and sports wagering at Foxwoods Resort Casino and via an app if and when the state enacts the necessary laws.

In 2021, the stars should finally be aligned, said Rodney Butler, the Mashantucket chairman, who’s been pushing for Connecticut to legalize sports betting for three years.

The impetus for action is clear, he said.

While Foxwoods’ and Mohegan Sun’s slot-machine revenues were plunging by a combined 21% in October compared to the same month last year, overall gaming revenues in New Jersey and Pennsylvania — states that have wholeheartedly embraced online gaming and sports wagering — were up by 15% and 13%, respectively, Butler noted.

In New Jersey, online gaming was up by more than 100%, sports wagering by 26%.

"If not for the pandemic, I think we would have gotten it passed last year," Butler said, referring to a 2020 bill, introduced by state Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, that addressed not only the legalization of online gaming and sports betting but also the distribution of gaming revenue to municipalities as well as other aspects of gaming expansion. Osten has indicated she will submit another version of the bill in January.

Butler said he's hopeful Gov. Ned Lamont will include tribal contributions of online gaming and sports betting revenues in the governor's 2021-22 budget proposal, which would be a sure sign of support. The tribes now share 25% of their casinos' slot revenues with the state.

Lamont, asked during a virtual press briefing Monday about the prospects for legalization of online game and sports betting in 2021, indicated he wants to get it done.

"This is something that's going on all around us and I think Connecticut should participate," he said. "If we found out anything in the course of this horrible COVID cycle, it's that more and more of the world is going virtual, more and more of the world is going online ... (including) i-gaming and sports betting. I don't think you want Connecticut left behind."

Lamont said he was in active discussions with the tribes and that he was confident legislation would be drafted "that allows this state to move forward."

Previous talks, however, have failed to resolve the tribes' claim that their gaming agreements with the state grant them the exclusive right to provide sports betting in Connecticut. Before the coronavirus outbreak shortened the 2020 legislative session, Lamont supported a proposal that would have authorized the tribes to provide sports betting at their casinos and also permit the tribes, the Connecticut Lottery Corp. and Sportech Venues, the state's off-track betting operator, to operate sports betting outside the tribes' reservations. He opposed a competing proposal authorizing the tribes to exclusively conduct sports betting.

Online gaming and sports betting are projected to generate $175 million in new revenue for the state over five years, the Mashantuckets and DraftKings said in a news release announcing their partnership. Provided they secure the necessary approvals, they "will be poised to launch sports betting in Connecticut,” the partners said.

Butler said DraftKings would operate a retail sports-betting location at Foxwoods as well as the casino’s online sports betting site, which residents could access on a device from anywhere within the state. DraftKings would also become Foxwoods' first-ever daily fantasy sports partner, offering online promotions, contests and other digital entertainment.

"The national expansion of regulated sports betting is among our top strategic priorities,” Matt Kalish, co-founder and president of DraftKings North America, said in the release. “DraftKings today is live with mobile sports betting in 10 states, more than any other operator in the U.S., and teaming up with the tribe will allow us to extend our reach even further."

Mohegan Sun’s parent corporation, Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment, has sports betting operations at locations in states that have legalized sports betting, including Mohegan Sun Pocono in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, N.J., where MGE partners with DraftKings. MGE expects to introduce operations in Louisiana and Washington state with the Tunica Biloxi and Cowlitz tribes, respectively.

“MGE is prepared and committed to bring the same level of high quality sports wagering products to Connecticut from our flagship Mohegan Sun CT property when the state legislature and governor allow sports betting,” said Ray Pineault, MGE’s chief operating officer.

MGE previously announced Kambi Group Plc would be its service provider in Connecticut.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

 

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