sports betting

Q&A: Is Online Gaming in CT a ‘Proverbial Tsunami?'

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Some people think Connecticut took a major gamble when the state approved online gaming and sports betting earlier this year. But now the pressure is on and the countdown clock is ticking.

This Thursday - September 9 - is a big day. It's when the NFL season kicks off and the tribes said they were optimistic that betting could begin by then.

According to the American Gaming Association, a record 45.2 million Americans are expected to wager on the NFL season. That's up 36% from last year, and fans in the northeast are the most interested.

But it doesn't look like the state will have the final approval to place those bets by Thursday.

"Our general counsel is in active discussions with tribes and Bureau of Indian Affairs. I'm told we're going to get a green light from Washington over the next week or two, then we've got to clarify and finish all of our consumer protection rules to make sure that that's in place. But I think we'll have online gaming and sports betting in the very near future," Gov. Ned Lamont said.

The state has already approved sports betting and online gaming through the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, the Mohegan Tribe and the Connecticut Lottery. They've already reached deals with vendors like Draft Kings and Fan Duel. But the federal government has to sign off first. The Bureau of Indian Affairs was given 45 days to approve or make changes, which would mean that decision should come by this week.

But the governor is not optimistic that is actually going to happen.

"We're starting the process right now, but I'm going to wait for a green light from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. I think it makes a lot more sense....we waited 10 years on this, I think another couple of weeks to get it right. Make sure we have all the regulatory process in place makes pretty good sense," Lamont said.

Declan Hill, an associate professor in the University of New Haven's Investigations program, sat down with NBC Connecticut's Dan Corcoran to discuss what could happen.

Dan: "Declan, you're really well versed in the world of sports gambling and online betting. From what you've experienced in the past, how big of a deal is this for Connecticut, from a financial perspective, and also from a lifestyle perspective?"

Hill: "This is, you know, the proverbial tsunami just coming onto our shores and hitting it. And, because of the fundamental changes that sports gambling is going to bring to our state, there's been actually relatively little discussion of it. This is something that I would contrast to the end of Prohibition in the 1930s. This is going to be huge."

Dan: "First of all, wow. A lot of people have raised concerns about what online gaming and sports betting could mean for people with gambling addictions, since they'll be able to access everything right on their phone."

Hill: "It's literally like walking around with a casino in your pocket. And the online sports gambling market is larger than our viewers and listeners can grasp at this moment, but it's coming, and it's coming to our state."

Dan: "The state has put some safeguards in place to help protect those people. Do we know exactly how much this is going to impact people that have an addiction already?"

Hill: "Yeah, listen, I'm smiling. I don't know if your listeners can see me, but I'm just chuckling away because I've seen the end runs that addicts use to get around those gambling addiction things, and it's pretty easy. We've got to have a real comprehensive discussion about this. We got to get the bookmakers are going to make gazillions amounts of cash, upping their donations that they give to gambling addiction counselors, so that an addict isn't waiting for more than two minutes to get to see a counselor. We’ve got to talk to our athletes, protect the integrity. We’ve got to set up an independent research like the UK gambling commission so we can keep track of this, so we can keep accountability because in five years’ time, all the promises that people made in front of a state legislature will be forgotten."

Dan: "Sports as we know it, you're not going to the arena anymore to experience it in the way that you once did. Let's talk about how it's a fundamental change of how we're experiencing sports now."

Hill: "There's a term that's coming out of the UK called the ‘gamblification’ of sports, there's been a lot of research. What they've seen is rising rates of gambling addiction, particularly among young men - and when I say young men, I mean teenagers. Many of these guys are going on to their mobile phones, and they're unable to watch a sporting event without gambling on it. So essentially, sports have become in the last 15 years in Europe in the UK, kind of like horse racing is now. Very few people go to a horse race because they love horses. It's a way of gambling."

Dan: "I think a lot of people are watching us right now and listening to this conversation here in Connecticut, and they're getting a bit more nervous than they were even just weeks ago."

Hill: "So they should be. And listen, if you don't believe what I'm saying, either check it out on the internet or go to any one of our sports channels that are also on this dial and see the screens around the speakers. They're now full of gambling information and gambling data, even though it's still not legal in our in our state. These companies, these broadcast companies are pumping out gambling information to feed this market."

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