Mashantucket chairman: Federal approval for sports betting two weeks away

Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council, which owns Foxwoods Resort Casino, shown at a forum on gaming expansion at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020.

Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council, which owns Foxwoods Resort Casino, shown at a forum on gaming expansion at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020.

Dan Haar/Hearst Connecticut Media

The chairman of one of the state’s two casino-owning tribes announced Tuesday that federal approval for the new online gaming and sports marketplace is two weeks away.

The statement by Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, came after a bipartisan legislative committee approved initial rules for the new marketplace.

In a statement after the vote, Butler said “action” from the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, which must sign off on a compact between the state and the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes allowing the expansion of gaming, is expected within the next two weeks.

“It is our understanding that once that approval comes, the state Department of Consumer Protection will issue master wagering licenses,” Butler said. “With the NFL season kickoff fast approaching, we are working to launch online gaming and sports betting as soon as we are legally allowed to do so.”

Gov. Ned Lamont issued a statement Tuesday saying the approval is “a significant step forward for Connecticut and our partners in this new marketplace.”

The Bureau of Indian Affairs, part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, does not comment on pending applications.

The General Assembly’s Regulations Review Committee, comprised of an even split of Democrats and Republicans, approved the 82 pages of regulations at an online meeting by a vote of 9 to 4, with one Republican absent. All four no votes came from Republicans.

Much of the comments during the roughly hour-long meeting were from Republicans, who said the process is being rushed to meet the start of the NFL season — Lamont’s informal deadline. They also raised concerns about problem gambling, including that the regulations don’t restrict someone from using a joint bank account to make wagers which could happen without the consent of the other person on the account.

“Nothing could be probably more disheartening and undermining of trust than realizing that the nest egg or the savings that one might depend on just to pay the bills, let alone one’s retirement, has vanished quite quickly because another individual used a joint account on a gambling spree,” said Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield.

Kissel also questioned why someone has to use cash or a debit card to buy a lottery ticket at a retail store when people will be allowed to use credit cards when taking part in sports betting and online gaming.

Sen. Cathy Osten, the Sprague Democrat who was the major sponsor of the gaming legislation, said she felt the rules limited the types of payment that could be used by not allowing mobile and online payment platforms such as PayPal and Venmo.

Their viewpoints highlight the difficult balance the Department of Consumer Protection had to strike in developing the regulations for the new industry, said Commissioner Michelle Seagull.

“For a lot of consumers who want to do this just occasionally or recreationally, it would maybe create this burden if they don’t already own individual bank accounts from being able to participate. While simultaneously, I think people who have a significant problem are going to find ways around it,” Seagull said at Tuesday’s meeting.

The final regulations must be submitted within six months, said Sen. James Maroney, the Democratic co-chair of the committee, adding that process will require public hearings and could present an opportunity to tweak the rules approved Tuesday.

julia.bergman@hearstmediact.com