Democrats and Republicans combined have the votes to approve sports gambling in Connecticut, but the political will to do so may only appear after votes are tallied in November.
Republicans refuse to go into a special session to vote on a deal negotiated solely between Gov. Dannel Malloy and the state’s two tribes that operate casinos. They would rather wait until the next General Assembly starts, or only vote on narrow legislation that was considered during the regular session earlier this year.
“I would say that’s a course of action or pass the legislation in the House that was had bipartisan support for, those would be the two options,” said Rep. Vincent Candelora, (R - North Branford), the number two Republican in the Connecticut House of Representatives.
Negotiations with the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes were put on hold last week when Malloy said he was informed Republicans were not interested in meeting for a special session to settle the issue immediately.
Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz said he would need support from Republicans on the issue, and without a special session, the issue has to be placed on hold.
“I have folks in my caucus that are just opposed to gambling overall, whether it’s sports gambling or its lottery, they’re never going to vote for it so the handful of votes I would lose, I need help from them and they’re not willing to do it.”
Aresimowicz, (D – Berlin), says Republicans are taking a risky gamble by waiting to take up the issue, saying he thinks their calculation is that they may have at least one chamber of the General Assembly in their control, meaning they could shape the conversation over sports betting.
“I think we’re all keenly aware that there is going to be a need for some new revenue come the new legislature,” Aresimowicz said. I believe they’re hedging their bets per se to see if they have that revenue on the table when the new governor is seated and the new legislature is seated.”
NBC Connecticut’s efforts to reach the two tribes Wednesday were unsuccessful.
Candelora says the conversation about sports gambling should be broadened outside of the tribes’ exclusivity agreement they have through their compact with the state.
“I think sports betting should be opened up to the private market because I don’t believe the compact ever contemplated ports betting for the tribes. We gave them authority to run casinos. No more, no less.”
Aresimowicz agrees in part, saying there needs to be more access points for people to place wagers, without putting betting parlors on every street corner in every town.
“Hartford that can use a little economic development where you can bring a sports bar slash OTB where you can do a little betting that would be a good thing for the state of Connecticut and the economy as a whole.”