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Lamont places historic sports wagers at Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods

In a bet both sound and politic, Gov. Ned Lamont put down $50 on the home team to win around 9:45 a.m. Thursday at Mohegan Sun.

And legal sports betting was underway in Connecticut.

Minutes after placing the first such bet in state history, Lamont traveled to Foxwoods Resort Casino, where he placed $20 bets on the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and took another bow with Mashantucket Pequot tribal officials.

In both places, the governor said, "This has been a long time coming."

Before James Gessner Jr., the Mohegan chairman, cut a ceremonial ribbon, Jeff Hamilton, Mohegan Sun's president and general manager, provided Lamont with a brief tutorial on one of several self-service kiosks in the casino's temporary FanDuel Sportsbook in the Bow & Arrow Sports Bar. After some remarks, Lamont placed a bet at a teller-manned counter window.

"Fifty on the Sun," he said as he turned toward onlookers, signaling he'd bet on the Connecticut Sun, the Mohegan-owned Women's National Basketball Association team scheduled to play in nearby Mohegan Sun Arena in about 10 hours.

The Sun were a 71/2-point favorite to beat the Chicago Sky and even their best-of-five playoff series at a game apiece.

Asked what else he might bet on, Lamont said he'd been learning about "prop" bets, short for proposition, which can be made on individual performances, such as how many touchdown passes a quarterback will throw in a game — or in a half or in a quarter.

"The prop bet I'd like to make is whether Tom Brady and Bill Belichick embrace at the end of their game," Lamont quipped, referring to the former New England Patriots quarterback whose Buccaneers will take on the Belichick-coached Patriots this Sunday night in a much-anticipated National Football League tilt.

At Foxwoods, he said he bet "with his heart," meaning never against Brady.

Thursday's sportsbook openings gave the casinos a head start in their respective bids to corner the state's sports-betting market and better compete with the growing number of gaming jurisdictions that have introduced sports betting in the wake of a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision that made it possible.

In providing sports betting and online casino gaming, which could debut as soon as next week, Mohegan Sun is partnered with FanDuel and Foxwoods with DraftKings.

As soon as next week, the Connecticut Lottery Corp. is expected to join the fray with on-site sports betting at 10 Sportech Venues locations in the northern and western parts of the state. The lottery's partner is Rush Street Interactive.

In remarks at Foxwoods’ event in the casino’s existing Ultimate Race Book, Mashantucket Chairman Rodney Butler said the new revenue streams sports betting and online gaming will generate are important to his tribe’s well-being. Even so, he added, the gaming-expansion bill the General Assembly passed in the spring and Lamont signed into law was not the most important piece of legislation approved last session.

Measures calling for the teaching of Native American history in public schools, encouraging the elimination of schools’ Native American mascots and securing the removal of a statue of Maj. John Mason, a Pequot nemesis, from the state Capitol’s exterior all were more vital to maintaining the tribe’s culture and heritage, Butler said.

Jason Guyot, Foxwoods’ president and chief executive officer, said Foxwoods already has hired 54 people in connection with the new sports-betting and online gaming operations.

For all the it’s-been-a-long-time-coming sentiment, Lamont said Connecticut has acted with unprecedented speed since negotiations between the state and the tribes culminated in an agreement in May, less than five months ago.

He said he expects the new gaming authorized by the legislation he signed to generate $100 million annually for the state when operations hit stride in four or five years.

The temporary sportsbooks on display Thursday will be replaced by permanent facilities. Mohegan Sun’s FanDuel Sportsbook, featuring 11,000 square feet of space and a 140-foot, high-resolution video wall, a bar and restaurant, is being built in the casino’s existing race book. Plans call for it to open in the winter, in time for the Super Bowl.

Guyot led a tour of Foxwoods’ permanent DraftKings Sportsbook, which is being built in space previously occupied by a brewpub that closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He said construction on the more than 12,000-square-foot space has been slowed by supply-chain issues.

A mid-November opening is now the target, Guyot said.

State Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, a staunch supporter of the tribes, attended both casinos’ events Thursday, as did other legislators, including several members of the southeastern Connecticut delegation.

Mohegan Sun also hosted two former NFL players at its ribbon-cutting: Wayne Chrebet, who played for the New York Jets, and Darius Butler, a UConn standout who played for the Patriots and other teams. Hamilton, the Mohegan Sun president, sent a ripple through the audience when he mistakenly referred to Butler as Rodney Butler, evoking the Mashantucket chairman.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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