Connecticut lawmakers look into permitting sports gambling

- FILE - View of the Connecticut Capitol from building from the atrium of the Legislative Office Building in Hartford (WTNH / Mark Davis)

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– Sports gambling could be legal in the U.S. by this summer, that’s what some are predicting because of an expected U.S. Supreme Court decision. Some Connecticut lawmakers say they want the state to be ready for this potential new revenue source.

State leaders here in Connecticut and dozens of other states are betting that sports gambling on events the like the Super Bowl and other major league sports will suddenly become legal sometime this summer.

That’s because the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule favorably by the end of June on a lawsuit filed by the state of New Jersey challenging the federal law against sports wagering because federal law has an exemption for Nevada and three other states and that, the lawsuit contends, violates the Constitution.

“I don’t know what the odds are but if the Supreme Court does open it up, we want to be ready,” says Connecticut Speaker of the House Rep. Joe Aresimowicz (D-Berlin).

“This is not a revenue grab, every state, my guess, is going to legalize sports gaming in the next 2 to 3 years,” said House Majority Leader Rep. Matt Ritter (D-Hartford).

Not a revenue grab, but Democratic House leaders said today that sports gambling in Connecticut could raise $40 million to $80 million a year for the state. Some think that estimate is low.

Everyone knows the state government is strapped for cash. Republicans agree that it’s a good time to look at this, but with a caveat.

“We shouldn’t be balancing the budget on that. I think we’ve said that before. Similar to marijuana, gambling just shouldn’t be a component to budget,” said House Deputy Minority Leader Rep. Vin Candelora (R-North Branford).

The Republican Leader in the Senate, Sen. Len Fasano (R-North Haven) added, “Even if the Supreme Court rules in favor of New Jersey, we have an extra hurdle which is the Mohegan Tribe and the Pequots, so we have to get through that hurdle.”

A spokesperson for the Mashantucket Pequot tribe told News 8 that this does fall under their exclusivity agreement with the state, and would have to be negotiated. Chuck Bunnell, the Chief of staff for the Mohegan Tribe opened the door a little more saying they are ready to be national leaders with the state in this potential new market.

As an indication of how serious this is, representatives from the NBA, Major League Baseball, along with a representative of the biggest bookmaker in Great Britain, are coming to the State Capitol Thursday for a day long public hearing on sports gambling.  Another public hearing is planned for later in  March.

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