Connecticut Internet Gaming Bill Prepares for Floor Vote
The prospects for online poker and casino games in Connecticut were not overwhelmingly positive after a February hearing, but the legislation remained alive. The most pertinent bill in question for online poker supporters – SB.17 – was one that put several forms of gambling expansion into one basket, with internet wagering accompanied by sports betting and internet keno. Other bills were also up for discussion, including tribal and commercial casino expansions.
After that hearing, a vote was taken to draft a proposed bill for consideration by the full committee. That draft was then referred to the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Security on March 14.
SB.17 was already supported by 12 original sponsors and four cosponsors, and in the past month, the bipartisan group added another two names to its list of champions. Connecticut State Senators Catherine Osten (D), Steve Cassano (D), Heather Somers (R), and Paul Formica (R), partnered with State Representatives Kevin Ryan (D), Christine Conley (D), Emmett Riley (D), Joe de la Cruz (D), Susan Johnson (D), Kate Rotella (D), Larry Butler (D), Travis Simms (D), Henry Genga (D), Dough Dibitsky (R), Mike France (R), and Holly Cheeseman (R). And the latest supporters of the bill proved to be Representatives Anthony Nolan (D) and Rick Hayes (R).
With that, the bill was on the move.
Favorable Vote in Committee
On March 19, the Public Safety and Security Committee took a vote on SB.17, and of the 24 members voting, there were 16 yea votes and 8 nays. Oddly enough, one of the nay votes was the aforementioned bill co-sponsor Rep. Hayes. Regardless, that 16-8 vote resulted in a joint favorable action.
Two days later, SB.17 was filed with the Legislative Commissioner’s Office. That procedural measure provides a version of the bill that was passed in committee and will be the one on which the House or Senate may debate and vote.
All of the bills that would expand gaming in Connecticut (and gaming commission, compulsive gaming bills) PASSED committee today. Sports Betting, Casino, Lottery bills now head to the floor. @wnpr
— Frankie Graziano (@_frankigraziano) March 19, 2019
The version of the bill ready for a vote will allow legal online casino games, which means any game of chance can be offered over the internet for web and mobile gaming. Games specified in the bill include poker, table games like blackjack and roulette, video facsimile games, and other games of chance.
If passed, the bill would be effective as of July 1, 2019, and it would provide up to 12 months for the Commissioner of Consumer Protection to adopt online gaming regulations. No other details are included in the current version of the proposal, which means information about licensing fees and tax rates might be debated on the floor and amendments applied before a final vote.
Many details of the group of bills are unfinished and await word from Governor Ned Lamont. He has taken meetings with many of the interested parties, including representatives from the tribal and commercial casinos, but he has yet to report the results of those meetings and any decisions that were finalized.
April and May Actions Likely
According to the Connecticut legislative calendar, the session remains open until June 5. It is likely that bills like SB.17 – ones that lack details – will be taken up for discussion on the floor of the legislature in April to leave ample time for negotiations and amendment write-ups.
Committee members pointed out that sports betting could yield $30 million per year by the third year of legal wagering, all from a proposed 10% tax on gross revenue. They also discussed the potential to improve tourism via casino properties and sports betting opportunities. Staying competitive with neighboring gambling states was another point of interest, as was moving forward on actions that will protect consumers and help ease budget problems for the state.
Gambling-related bills, other than SB.17, will continue discussions on the committee level, though some bills to study the effects of legalized gambling, treatments for problem gambling, and the creation of a new gambling commission were given enough votes to move forward for floor votes.