Would the inability to make legal bets on Tom Brady’s performance on NFL season opening night constitute an emergency? The Governor of Connecticut and some lawmakers seem to think so.
The Legislature’s Regulatory Review Committee on Tuesday voted 9-4 to pass emergency regulations to speed up the arrival of sports betting and online casino games in Connecticut, as permitted by a law passed in may.
“The passage of sports betting and online gaming regulations is an important step forward for Connecticut and our partners in this new market,” Governor Ned Lamont said.
The law, the terms of which were set through negotiations with the Lamont administration and lawmakers, made it clear that the start of the expansion of gambling would not be hampered by a more deliberate regulatory process.
There is no public comment period in the emergency regulations.
“It’s a big deal for me, all this rushing to sort of – and I know this just for the record – to meet the opening of the football season,” said Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield , who cast one of four votes in opposition.
The tensions inherent in regulating how gaming can be conducted 24/7 on smartphones and computers – platforms designed for instant access, if not gratification – were evident during the brief debate.
Senator Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, whose district is home to the state’s two casinos, was concerned that the inability to use PayPal, Venmo and Apple Pay would make gambling too difficult. Only one credit or debit card can be used to open an account.
Others were concerned about the lack of strict daily limits on betting or the ability of players to bet from pooled bank accounts or lines of credit.
“I think this really highlights the difficult balance that needs to be struck, but I’m comfortable with the balance here,” said Michelle Seagull, Commissioner of the Department of Consumer Protection.
His department is the overseer of the regulation of gambling, alcohol sales and the production and sale of cannabis.
The state, of course, is not a selfless player: just as it shares slots at tribal casinos, Foxwoods Resort, and Mohegan Sun, Connecticut will get its share of online casino games and sports betting.
The state will collect taxes of 18% initially on online casino games, increasing to 20% after five years; and 13.75% on sports betting and fantasy sports. It is expected to generate $ 28 million in the current fiscal year and increase in the future.
As Lamont said in his statement, the two tribal casinos are partners with the state. The Tribes and the state-owned Connecticut Lottery Corporation are the only entities eligible for the only primary licenses for sports betting.
The Tribes and CT Lottery have selected providers to manage their sports betting, but they are waiting for the regulatory structure, which establishes procedures and standards, such as age verification and geolocation to keep online betting in Connecticut. . Through a deal with the lottery, the state’s off-track betting operator Sportech will offer a sports betting book at 10 of its facilities.
“With the start of the NFL season quickly approaching, we are working to launch online gaming and sports betting as soon as we are legally allowed to do so,” said Rodney Butler, President of Mashantucket Pequot Nation, owner of Foxwoods.
The tribes are currently awaiting approval from the US Department of the Interior of the state’s gambling agreements with the two federally recognized tribes, the Mashantucket Pequots and the Mohegans. A 45-day review period expires in the next nine days.
“We expect action from the Federal Home Office in the next two weeks on the compact amendments submitted in late July, and we understand that once this approval is obtained, the state’s Consumer Protection Department will issue licenses. of main bets, ”said Butler. .
Butler acknowledged what the governor’s statement ignored: The emergency regulations approved on Tuesday are essentially temporary, and a permanent version is due to be passed within the next six months – this time after a period of public comment.
“We anticipate that there will be further regulatory clarification ahead of a final regulatory vote early next year that will align with the best practices we see in competitive markets across the country,” said Butler said.
Diana Goode, executive director of the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling, said the regulations do not adequately address voluntary self-exclusion – a technique that allows a player to ban a casino for a period of time or forever.
His board, a non-profit organization funded by tribal and state casinos, would like to see a unified voluntary self-exclusion program. Currently, the tribes have separate programs and the new regulations only affect online gambling, not wagering at the two casinos or Sportech licensed lottery facilities.
“We were concerned that most of what they were focusing on was self-exclusion online, and they were ignoring self-exclusion with brick and mortar,” Goode said. “Our feeling is that there should be a full set of state self-exclusion, so that you can self-exclude yourself from everything, if that’s what you want to do, and you don’t. to do it piecemeal. “
The regulations do not set betting limits, but they do require online betting platforms to provide customers with the ability to set limits.
“A deposit limit must be offered on a daily, weekly and monthly basis and must specify the maximum amount of money a customer can deposit into their Internet gaming account during a given period,” the regulation says.
When a customer’s lifetime deposits exceed $ 2,500, the electronic betting platform must prevent any betting until the customer acknowledges that they are aware that they can set “responsible gambling limits or”. close his account ”.
Kissel wondered if an occasional red flag was enough.
“We’re going to attract young people especially with a lot of these games,” Kissel said.
The minimum age is 21 years old.
Kissell, Sen. Craig Miner, R-Litchfield, and Rep. Dave Rutigliano, R-Trumbull, have each objected to the ability for a player to use a joint account to play, saying a spouse or partner could ruin the game. ‘other.
Seagull said in an interview that Connecticut’s regulations meet or exceed industry standards.
“I think our regulations do a very good job and are consistent, certainly with what other states are doing,” Seagull said. “Most states don’t get into this nuance between joint and personal accounts. And you know many states allow payment options like PayPal and Venmo, which we don’t allow in Connecticut. So there is definitely a balance to be found.
Seagull said the regulations can’t be so onerous that consumers won’t enter a market and engage in driving that the state of Connecticut says should be legal for adults.
At the same time, the aim is to offer guarantees, she said.
“The fact that some people thought we weren’t strict enough and others thought we were too strict, we ended up landing somewhere in the middle. “