Connecticut Tribes Pitch Online Poker To State

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Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun Want Online Gaming To Be Legal

Connecticut could be poised to become just the fifth state in the country with regulated real-money online poker sites.

According to comments made this month by the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes, state lawmakers could very well end up acting on legislation in the near future. The pro-online casino comments made by the tribal groups, which operate the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos respectively, were first reported by OnlinePokerReport.com.

A Mar. 15 hearing with the state’s Public Safety and Security Committee featured testimony from the tribes in support of bringing real-money games to the web. In October, nearby Pennsylvania legalized online casinos. New Jersey, also a major player in the region’s gambling market, has a booming internet betting industry.

Sports betting, which the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on this year, was coupled with the online gaming pitch. Online sports books could be part of any state’s internet gambling offerings, should it be permissible under federal law. Nevada, currently the only state with sports books, allows so-called mobile sports bets. New Jersey will do so as well if given the opportunity.

“I believe that if the two tribes are allowed to operate online gaming and sport wagering, they will generate more than $120 million in revenue to the state of Connecticut in the first five years alone,” a Mohegan Sun representative said in written testimony to lawmakers.

Foxwoods told lawmakers that “based on our estimates coupled with a pragmatic tax rate, over the course of five years Connecticut stands to collect roughly $87 million in tax revenue from iGaming, at a rate starting at $14.25 million in year one, escalating to $20 million in year five.”

Despite the synergies, Foxwoods called online gaming “a more lucrative opportunity for the state than sports gambling.” The casino also said that the internet games are the “strongest opportunity” for government coffers. The tribes estimated that tax revenue from brick-and-mortar and online sports betting would be about $40 million over a five-year period.

Those estimates are based on a 15 percent tax rate for online gaming and an 8.75 percent tax on sports betting win. The tribal groups enjoy gambling exclusivity in Connecticut, which they argue applies to the internet and any form of sports betting as well.

Connecticut has a population of about 3.6 million people, which is a small market for online poker. The state would benefit from partnering with the other online gaming states in order to improve liquidity. A five-state online poker player pool between Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut would contain about 30 million people.