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    Saturday, November 26, 2022

    Bill likely to revive debate over state regulation of fantasy sports contests

    Connecticut lawmakers could again consider whether to explicitly legalize, regulate — and tax — fantasy sports contests, a step several states have taken in the last couple of years.

    State Rep. Jeffrey Berger, a Waterbury Democrat, has introduced a bill to regulate fantasy sports contests “and place a fee on winnings derived from such contests.” His proposal has been referred to the legislature’s General Law Committee.

    Berger said this week that he’s confident the measure will get a public hearing.

    Fantasy sports participants assemble teams of real-world professional athletes and accumulate points based on the statistics the athletes generate while performing in actual competition. States differ on whether fantasy sports contests constitute games of skill or games of chance. If the latter, they qualify as sports gambling, which is illegal in all but four states — Delaware, Montana, Nevada and Oregon.

    In Connecticut, bills that would have legalized “daily fantasy sports” contests were introduced last year in the Senate and House. But, after state Attorney General George Jepsen cautioned that passage of such legislation could jeopardize the state’s revenue-sharing agreements with the casino-owning Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes, neither bill was put to a vote in either chamber.

    The tribes, respective owners of Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun, pay 25 percent of their slot-machine winnings to the state in exchange for a guarantee that the state will authorize no other casino gaming.

    Any plan to expand gambling in the state typically requires negotiations with the tribes. Before it authorized the Connecticut Lottery Corp. to operate keno, for example, the legislature agreed to pay each of the tribes 12.5 percent of the gross revenue generated by the game.

    “We need to continue the discussion,” Berger said of fantasy sports contests. “If we’re going to open up a casino off tribal lands, this could be part of a larger negotiation.”

    The two tribes jointly are pursuing a plan to develop a third Connecticut casino north of Hartford, where it would be expected to compete against a resort casino being built in Springfield, Mass.

    The bills proposed last year would have required the Department of Consumer Protection to adopt regulations to protect players from unfair or deceptive practices, and prohibit operators from allowing those under 18 to play. They would have imposed an initial $50,000 registration fee on operators and an annual renewal fee of up to $10,000. The House bill also called for an 8.75 percent surcharge on total entry fees minus the amount paid out in winnings.

    In October, Mohegan Sun announced that it had entered into a partnership with FanDuel, one of the two biggest providers of daily fantasy sports, the other being DraftKings. Under the agreement, players can access FanDuel’s website through mohegansun.com/fantasysports, and win such prizes as Mohegan Sun hotel stays, admission to entertainment events at the casino and free meals at casino restaurants.

    At the time, Bobby Soper, president and chief executive officer of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, described the partnership as “strictly a marketing relationship — a tool to introduce people to the FanDuel site.”

    Soper, through a spokesman, said Tuesday that the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority has not taken a position on the Berger bill but has been watching the issue of daily fantasy sports regulation “very closely.”

    Berger noted that Connecticut’s neighbors — Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island — are among the states that specifically allow fantasy sports contests. New Jersey lawmakers currently are debating bills on the topic.

    b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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