Fantasy sports goes ahead, but actual wagering is months away

Photo of Ken Dixon
A Draft Kings tent in the parking lot of Gillette Stadium before an NFL football game between the New England Patriots and New York Jets, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2015, in Foxborough, Mass.

A Draft Kings tent in the parking lot of Gillette Stadium before an NFL football game between the New England Patriots and New York Jets, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2015, in Foxborough, Mass.

Charles Krupa / Associated Press

Connecticut’s estimated 600,000 fantasy sports fans will be able to continue their popular basketball, football, baseball and soccer leagues now that a section in the upcoming state budget was reworked in time for the start of the fiscal year on Thursday.

But actual daily betting on such sports will likely have to wait months as state officials, the Connecticut Lottery Corp., the Mashantucket Tribal Nation and the Mohegan Tribal Nation await an expected approval from the federal Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).

That approval, along with some state hurdles, are needed for Connecticut to create a new landscape of online casino games and betting on sports, as well as fantasy games.

Gov. Ned Lamont’s legal team and lawmakers created provisional licenses for operators to offer fantasy games. Typically, groups of players form leagues with teams that select players whose daily statistics determine who wins prize money. That language was contained in the so-called implementer for the budget, the 900-plus-page document in which dozens of laws that didn’t make it through the General Assembly become law with only top leadership’s approval.

“We are anticipating no disruption of daily fantasy sports games, based on the agreement we reached and was approved in the recent budget implementer,” said Max Reiss, Lamont’s communications director, on Monday. “The agreement that we negotiated with tribes and the industry was an attempt toward a measured solution. The BIA will have the final say on the gaming landscape, based on the agreement with tribes and the lottery.”

The fantasy sports industry warned last month that without express language, at midnight Wednesday they could be out of compliance. The two major sports-wagering companies recently agreed to pay the state $1.1 million to continue working here.

Currently, fantasy sports operators such as FanDuel and DraftKings can only administer the fantasy leagues in Connecticut, for which they are paid fees. They are prohibited from accepting bets. About two dozen states , including New Jersey and Pennsylvania allow sports wagering, but gamblers must actually be in those states when they wager.

In December, DraftKings reached a deal with the Mashantucket Pequots to run sports fantasy leagues under the Foxwoods brand when the betting launches.

In late May, the Fantasy Sports & Gaming Association, a national trade group, warned that some kind of accompanying legislation was needed to allow them to continue after June 30 and into the NFL season, which is the most-popular with fantasy sports players. It is also be the most lucrative sports-gambling season.

The budget amendment includes a requirement for the two tribes and the lottery to seek provisional licenses for fantasy games by midnight June 30.

“The creation of a provisional license for fantasy contests will allow the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, the Mohegan Tribe of Indians and the Connecticut Lottery Corporation to enter into contracts with fantasy contest operators to continue offering these games after July 1, 2021, if they so choose,” said Michelle H. Seagull, commissioner of the state Department of Consumer Protection, which will supervise the expanded gambling market. “We look forward to continued work with both tribes and the CLC.”

Jason Chung, a lawyer who is an assistant professor of sports management and executive director of E-sports academic programming at the University of New Haven, said Monday that the state is not on the cutting edge of the fantasy sports industry, which is disproportionately tailored to young men.

“Connecticut is a little late to the party,” Chung said in a phone interview. “Government is always slow to react.” He said that being a modern fan means that allegiances to actual teams gets eclipsed by players whose performance can help — or in the case of the 2021 New York Yankees — hurt a fantasy team made up of stars from throughout baseball.

“A lot of younger guys think they can game the system and win,” Chung said. “Everybody thinks they have a system and everybody thinks they can win. That’s how casinos make money. They make money from people who think they can game the system, and also people who want to hit it big.” Twitter: @KenDixonCT