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Public hearing on gaming bills to be held virtually Tuesday

Several proposals dealing with sports wagering, online casino gaming and other gaming matters are among more than a dozen bills scheduled for an airing Tuesday during a virtual public hearing conducted by the legislature’s Public Safety and Security Committee.

The session, set to begin at 9:30 a.m., will take place via Zoom and will be broadcast live on YouTube.

Proposals that would authorize the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes to provide sports wagering online and at their respective casinos — Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun — are likely to dominate the hearing. A bill that originated with Sen. Cathy Osten, a Sprague Democrat, and which has the bipartisan support of the southeastern Connecticut delegation, also would authorize online sales of the Connecticut Lottery Corp.’s draw-game tickets and allow the lottery to provide online keno.

Another "placeholder" bill would authorize Gov. Ned Lamont to negotiate new gaming agreements with the tribes, a process that has been taking place behind the scenes for some time. Neither side has commented on the substance of the negotiations. 

“While we're working hard to get an agreement, we can't and won't discuss the details of those talks or when they might conclude,” Chuck Bunnell, the Mohegan Tribe’s chief of staff, said in a statement. “What we can say is that the administration's budget proposal includes $47.3 million in new revenue associated with these changes, and we've demonstrated that this is a number that is 100 percent achievable through an agreement with the state's tribal nations. If Connecticut wants to make this a reality, there is an agreement that could be done today, and we hope we don't miss the opportunity once again."

It was a year ago that the governor announced his support for a measure that would have authorized the tribes to provide sports wagering at their casinos and allow the tribes, the lottery and the state’s off-track betting operator to provide sports wagering outside the tribes’ reservations. The tribes rejected the idea, maintaining their existing agreements with the state grant them the exclusive right to provide “casino gaming,” which they say includes sports wagering.

“It is well past time to finalize an agreement with our tribes, who not only are one of the largest contributors to our state’s economy, but who have been faithful employers and partners with our state for more than 25 years,” Sen. Heather Somers, a Groton Republican, said Thursday in a statement. “This issue has had hearing after hearing. It is time to move forward with the tribes. Once enacted, significant revenue can be realized by our state in a very short time frame. That revenue will improve our weakened economy and create jobs which are desperately needed after the devastating aftermath of COVID. In a bipartisan fashion, we need to get this done.”

The public safety committee has proposed a bill that aims to provide consumer protections for sports wagering. It would prohibit any operator of sports wagering and any family member living in the same household from placing a sports wager, and would prohibit an individual with access to “nonpublic, confidential information that could affect the outcome of a sporting event” from betting on that event.

A bill introduced by Rep. Devin Carney, a Westbrook Republican, would require that all revenue collected from new types of gaming be dedicated to the state Teachers’ Retirement Fund “until said fund is fully funded.” Sen. Dennis Bradley, the Bridgeport Democrat who co-chairs the public safety panel, has introduced a bill calling for the authorization of “a tribal casino in Bridgeport” as well as sports wagering, online gaming and online lottery.

Other bills on the public hearing agenda are related to law enforcement, including one that would enable officers to track and trace a cellphone of a person 18 to 21 years of age who is believed to be in distress or danger and is still living dependently in the home of a parent or guardian.

Another proposal would allow an officer to take into custody a person the officer has reasonable cause to believe is experiencing a drug overdose and the officer has administered an opioid antagonist or taken other lifesaving measures.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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