Connecticut Gov. Malloy, tribes could negotiate online gambling as well as sports betting

Hartford — Sports betting might not be the only form of gambling that’s on the table during upcoming negotiations between Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes.

After a private meeting with legislative leaders, Malloy said Wednesday that the talks also could involve online gambling.

“When you talk about multiple types of gaming, it makes it more likely a comprehensive agreement can be reached,” he said.

Malloy and the lawmakers met to discuss steps that need to be taken prior to a special legislative session on sports betting, a potential money-maker made possible a week ago when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a law that prohibited states from adopting sports-betting legislation.

The special session likely would take place this summer.

The tribes — respective owners of Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun — have maintained that their existing gaming agreements with the state grant them the exclusive right to offer sports betting. State Attorney General George Jepsen, however, has provided an opinion that runs counter to the tribes’ view.

At stake is the state’s 25-percent share of the casinos’ slot-machine revenues, which the tribes fork over in exchange for the exclusive right to provide casino gaming in the state. That share came to more than $270 million last year.

Malloy said Wednesday he’s “in total agreement” with Jepsen’s opinion. And, during the regular legislative session that ended earlier this month, a sports-betting bill that gained some traction would have authorized the Connecticut Lottery Corp. and off-track-betting facilities, as well as the casinos, to provide sports wagering.

The governor said he was looking for lawmakers’ guidance before heading into the negotiations.

Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, of North Haven, said it would be up to Malloy to decide “how hard to push” against the tribes’ exclusivity demand.

In relation to online gambling, Malloy said he needs to know if lawmakers’ intent was to include that in negotiations with the tribe.

“It makes sense to negotiate both in one negotiation,” he said. “We have a line of income that we don’t want to give up ... in the $200 million range.”

During the regular session, tribal representatives were especially bullish about the legalization of online gaming — the playing of slots-like games, table games and poker games on computers and mobile devices. Seth Young, Foxwoods’ executive director of online gaming, testified that the tribes believe online gaming could provide the state with about $87 million in tax revenue in the first five years after its legalization, starting with $14.25 million the first year and growing to $20 million in the fifth year.

Sports betting, the tribes estimated, would generate $40 million in tax revenue over the course of five years, growing from $6.5 million the first year to $9.1 million the fifth year. Other estimates of sports betting’s potential as a tax revenue source are rosier, ranging from $40 million to $80 million annually.