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Region's lawmakers urging Lamont, Mashantuckets to finalize gaming agreement

Eastern Connecticut lawmakers informed Gov. Ned Lamont on Wednesday that they can’t accept the “incomplete” gaming agreement he’s reached with the Mohegan Tribe.

Four senators and 13 representatives signed a letter imploring the governor and the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes “to come together and complete an agreement” by Sunday, saying, “We believe this is possible.”

The deal between the state and the Mohegans, which the governor’s office announced Tuesday, authorizes the Mohegans to provide online gaming and both the Mohegans and the Connecticut Lottery Corp. to operate online and in-person sports wagering. The Mashantuckets have so far balked at the deal, apparently over the 20% tax rate it would impose on online gaming revenue.

Paul Mounds, the governor’s chief of staff, issued a statement in response to the delegation’s letter.

“The administration agrees that the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation must be a party in any agreement, and that this agreement is best for the entire state, especially Eastern Connecticut, where the tribes employ thousands of people and contribute significantly to local economies and communities,” Mounds said. “This expansion of gaming in Connecticut is a financial benefit to both tribes and will provide long-term stability for both sovereign governments. Governor Lamont is urging the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation to join this agreement immediately, and Eastern Connecticut legislators should do the same.”

Sources confirmed Wednesday that the Mashantuckets want the tax rate on online gaming revenue set at 18%. When the most recent round of negotiations between the tribes and the state began in November, the state wanted a 25% rate, and only lowered its demand to 20% earlier this week, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.

The new agreement also imposes a 13.75% tax on sports wagering revenue.

The Mashantucket and Mohegan tribes, respective owners of Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun, contribute 25% of their casinos’ slot-machine revenues to the state.

Before the new agreement was announced, Rob Simmelkjaer, chairman of the lottery’s board of directors, urged members of the legislature’s Public Safety and Security Committee to include the lottery “as a primary operator” in any sports wagering legislation. The agreement grants the lottery the right to operate 15 retail sports-wagering locations, some of which it can sublicense to Sportech Venues, the state’s off-track betting operator.

Sportech Venues, which, like the lottery, was not directly involved in the negotiations, has threatened to sue over the agreement.

“Based on the Governor’s announcement yesterday, we’re pleased to be envisioned as a prospective statewide online and retail sports betting operator,” a lottery spokeswoman, Tara Chozet, said Wednesday. “We’re ready to deliver for the state, just as we have in our existing lottery business. After the final agreement is reached and any related legislation is passed and signed, we will be prepared accordingly.”

“If and when a deal is struck and finalized, and the legislation is passed, we would look forward to speaking with Sportech about the possibility of partnering with them on at least some retail locations,” she said.

Signing the letter to Lamont Wednesday were Sens. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague; Paul Formica, R-East Lyme; Heather Somers, R-Groton, and Norm Needleman, D-Essex; and Reps. Kevin Ryan, D-Montville; Emmett Riley, D-Norwich; Brian Lanoue, R-Griswold; Mike France, R-Ledyard; Kathleen McCarty, R-Waterford; Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme; Anthony Nolan, D-New London; Susan Johnson, D-Windham; Brian Smith, D-Colchester; Christine Conley, D-Groton; Greg Howard, R-Stonington; Doug Dubitsky, R-Chaplin, and Joe de la Cruz, D-Groton.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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