It’s been years in the making, but Connecticut will roll out limited online sports betting and casino gaming Tuesday from 3pm. The launch marks the latest phase in the state’s biggest expansion of gambling since its casinos, Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, opened in the 1990s.
The two tribal operators are expected to dominate the new market. The Mohegan Tribe has partnered with FanDuel for casino and sports betting, while Foxwoods-owners the Mashantucket Pequots have teamed up with DraftKings.
The only other operator in the picture is the Connecticut Lottery Corp. (CPC), which offers sports betting only, via Rush Street Interactive’s PlaySugarHouse Sportsbook Connecticut. The lottery operator will also be permitted to offer digital lottery and keno products, including the online sale of draw tickets.
Connecticut Online Gaming: What’s in the Soft Launch?
The weeklong soft launch limits gambling to 750 accounts, while also restricting the hours of play. This will allow operators and regulators to ensure the smooth running of things like age-verification and geotechnology, which ensures gamblers can only place bets from within state lines.
The soft-launch will not include live dealer or peer-to-peer (P2P) games, which use different technology that requires additional testing.
P2P usually refers to online poker, although it is unclear whether the two tribes intend to roll out this vertical at all. While it is now legal under state law, neither operator appears to have a poker product ready to go and may choose to ignore it in favor of more lucrative casino games.
In the absence of glitches, the market will launch in full on October 19.
The soft launch follows the rollout of live in-person sports betting at the two casinos on September 30. The current gambling expansion is the result of years of negotiations between the tribes and Gov. Ned Lamont and his predecessor, Gov. Dannel Malloy.
While Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods once flourished in the absence of regional competition, they have been hit by the expansion of casino gaming in neighboring states, most recently Massachusetts.
Online gaming has been seen by the two successive governors as a way to plug the gap, while bringing Connecticut’s gaming laws in line with the digital age. The closure of the two casinos during last year’s lockdown added greater urgency to the task. For the tribes, exclusivity on sports betting was a sticking point.
The tribes already pay a 25 percent revenue share on slots to the state in return for exclusivity on casino gaming, which has contributed billions of dollars to state coffers over the past 25 years. Now, they will also pay 18 percent on online casino gaming for the first five years, then 20 percent for the subsequent five. Sports betting revenue share is 13.75 percent.
“After more than a decade of advocacy and negotiation, statewide sports betting and i-gaming is finally coming to Connecticut,” Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, told The Hartford Courant.
“This has been a remarkable implementation schedule, from legislative approval in the spring to retail and online gaming this fall. We’ve made it to the finish line and we’re excited to finally launch,” he added.
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