Connecticut Tribes And State Officials Butting Heads On Sports Betting – Legal Sports Report

Connecticut sports betting butting heads

Things are escalating quickly on the Connecticut sports betting front.

Two Native American gaming tribes threatened to stop slot revenue payments to the state if sports betting is legalized in Connecticut without their blessing.

Then just yesterday, a state lawmaker introduced an amendment to a sports betting bill to specifically exclude sports wagering from the state’s gambling provisions, in what would appear to be a way to get around the tribal compacts. It does not appear as that amendment was adopted, from the bill’s history online, however.

No matter what’s in the bill, however, it all adds up to a messy path forward for sports gambling in the state, which started off the year as a hot topic in the state.

The initial details come from a Connecticut Post report this week. Representatives of the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes say legalized sports betting violates their state compacts. A recent opinion from Connecticut’s attorney general disagrees with that take though.

Connecticut receives 25 percent of slot revenue from tribal casinos including Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun. With about $250 million annually from two of the country’s largest Indian casinos in play, it appears to be a dangerous game that Connecticut is playing.

“The tribes have been great partners and I’m sure we will have conversations,” House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz told the Post.

Where sports betting falls under the law is the key

An April 17 letter to Aresimowicz from Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen responds to numerous questions. It offers analysis of what happens to existing agreements if the US Supreme Court repeals PASPA — aka the federal sports wagering ban — and Connecticut authorizes sports betting:

Connecticut’s agreements with the Tribes require the legislature to carefully consider a number of factors before legalizing sports wagering. In the event PASPA is struck down and state law continues to prohibit sports wagering (as it presently does), because sports wagering is a Class III game under federal law and is not an authorized game under either of the respective Compacts, the Tribes would still be prohibited from conducting sports wagering on their reservations.

Moreover, it is our opinion that if sports betting were to become lawful in Connecticut, the Tribes would not have an exclusive right under the existing Compacts and MOUs to offer it … Sports betting is not listed as an authorized game. By contrast, for example, pari-mutuel betting on horse and dog racing and jai alai games are authorized games. Id. The exclusion of sports betting from the specific list of authorized games is compelling evidence that the Compacts do not presently authorize it …

Amendments to the Compacts would be necessary to authorize the Tribe’s sports betting … Thus, our opinion is that the Compacts do not presently authorize the Tribes to conduct sports betting on their reservations. Nor are we aware of any other federal or state law that would be a basis for the Tribes to assert an exclusive right over sports betting.

How the tribes say sports betting breaks their deal

Exactly how Connecticut casinos would facilitate sports betting remains the primary issue under current law. Video kiosks could be used to place wagers — that is where the tribes see an opening. The tribes have exclusivity over “video facsimile” gaming in the state.

“If the state authorizes video facsimile gaming, the exclusivity provisions of (the compacts) would be violated and our obligations to make the slot contributions cease,” said Mohegan Attorney General Helga Woods in the CT Post report.

Jepsen’s opinion does not concur with that assessment, but leaves open a window for the tribes.

“Although it is our view that sports wagering is not a video facsimile, whether it is a ‘commercial casino game’ is an open question.”

The state holds some leverage as well. Jepsen makes clear that a broken compact could call into question the legality of operating slot machines on tribal lands.

Neither side wants to get to that point, of course. Connecticut also appears unlikely to pass a sports betting bill this session, lessening the urgency a bit. The tribes likely want in on sports betting as well, making compromise more plausible.

March Madness Sends Nevada Sports Betting Handle Past $500 … – Legal Sports Report

Nevada sports betting March Madness

Nevada sportsbooks surged past their March record for total amount wagered on sports betting, thanks in part to record wagering on the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, aka March Madness.

Monthly figures released Monday by the Nevada Gaming Control Board show casinos took nearly $522 million in March sports wagers. That figure represents a major jump from $475 million in handle last March, which also set a record at the time.

It was not a record for total handle, but it’s the first time that the total amount wagered surpassed half a billion in a month in which there was no NFL or college football wagering. The fall months routinely eclipse that figure.

March Madness drives the action for sportsbooks

As usual, basketball fueled the March numbers in Nevada. Handle reached a new historical high for the month at about $437 million. The books took in more than $429 million in the same month last year.

The board’s accounting does not break out college and pro basketball separately, but March Madness clearly is the impetus. Las Vegas casino owners tout the first weekend of the tournament as their biggest sports event of the year. Five years ago, March basketball handle sat at more than $324 million — 35 percent less than this year.

While the books enjoyed a sizable basketball win north of $38 million, they fell short of the $41.3 million held last March.

Football brings down the overall win for casinos

The overall hold for Nevada sportsbooks came in at about $34.2 million. That’s roughly $2.8 million ahead of last March.

Football futures tickets come home to roost in March and books lost more than $11 million, much of it on the Philadelphia Eagles. They still cut their football loss from more than $13 million in March both of the past two years.

Baseball’s early start helps the March total as well

About $16.2 million came in on baseball in March. That’s thanks largely to the Major League Baseball season opening March 29, putting three days of regular-season action in the month. Last year, baseball drove around $4.9 million in handle for March.

“Other” sports — including hockey — generated nearly $53 million in March revenue for the books. That figure checked in at $36.6 million last year.

It’s perhaps an indication of the local popularity of the impressive Vegas Golden Knights in their inaugural season. The Knights are currently in the Western Conference semifinals.

Majority of Americans Favor Legal Sports Betting Despite Possible … – Casino.Org News

The majority of Americans are in favor of betting on games legally, according to a new sports betting poll by Seton Hall University’s Sharkey Institute, although most respondents also believed a regulated betting market would impact the integrity of sports events.

sports betting poll

It’s believed that billions of dollars are bet by Americans on the Super Bowl each year, dwarfing figures taken in the legal sports books of Nevada. Far from promoting corruption, legal sports books would help regulatory bodies detect suspicious betting patterns that might point to match-fixing. (Image: CNN International)

Some 55 percent of Americans said they were in favor of sports betting, while 35 percent were opposed and 10 percent did not know. The figures tally closely with a Washington Post poll conducted last year.

The new poll found that support for regulation was significantly higher among the younger generation. Some 68 percent were in favor among the 18-29 age group, which fell to just 37 percent for those aged 60 and above.

Meanwhile, 48 percent of all respondents said they thought sports betting would jeopardize the integrity of the games. Some 42 percent disagreed and 10 percent, again, didn’t know.

Sports Petting Poll Points to Unsettling Conclusion

Director of the poll Rick Gentile said the findings make for uncomfortable reading because they suggested people don’t care about integrity.

It’s outrageous when you think about it,” said Gentile, a former executive producer and senior vice president of CBS Sports. “It comes close to saying ‘We don’t care about the legitimacy of the games, what matters is being able to bet on them.’ A majority favors gambling, and by a slimmer margin think the games might be fixed as a result.”

The American Gaming Association estimates that US citizens illegally wager around $150 billion on US sports annually, while another study estimates that Americans bet about $500 billion worldwide on sports each year. These figures dwarf the $250 million in revenue generated by Nevada’s regulated sports books in 2017, which itself was an all-time record.

Regulation Will Promote Integrity

The NBA and the MLB – for decades fiercely opposed to legal sports betting – now say they would support a regulated market, but only on their terms.

The leagues are trying to convince lawmakers to impose a one percent “integrity fee” on all bets taken on their games if the market opens up, but many feel that integrity monitoring should be conducted by state regulators and that the leagues’ fee is little more than an onerous royalty charge.

Far from jeopardizing integrity, a regulated market would make match-fixing much easier to detect, as legalized sports books would be required to monitor and report suspicious betting patterns, while taking revenues away from the black market.

The US Supreme Court is expected any day now to deliver its decision on whether the Professional and Amateur Sports Protect Act (PASPA) is unconstitutional and should be repealed. The act prohibits states from legalizing and regulated sports betting within their borders, even though it is legal in Nevada and a handful of other states.

Industry observers expect the court to strike down PASPA.

Will Mississippi have sports wagering in casinos by football season? Don't bet against it – Jackson Clarion Ledger


Rep. Steve Holland speaks passionately from the floor in favor of creating a state lottery.
Geoff Pender

While state leaders continue their decades-old hemming and hawing over a lottery, folks could be legally betting on sports and horse racing in Mississippi casinos by this coming football season.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule as early as next week on whether states can allow sports betting. 

If it rules they can allow it, Mississippi is, to borrow the words of former state House Gaming Chairman Bobby Moak, “ready to run the ponies.”

In a move that still astounds me, state lawmakers in 2017 sneakily legalized sports betting without most folks realizing it.

And in a move that further astounds me, they didn’t come back this year and undo it.

This undermines any arguments that legalizing it was just an oops or a scrivener’s error. Bills to undo or postpone legalized sports betting died in committee this session without a peep from the leadership.

If you oppose the expansion of legal gambling to include sports, you’ve done been had by the Mississippi Legislature. That horse has left the barn — or gate, as it was. 

More: Did legislative leadership really fall for sports-betting rope-a-dope? Geoff Pender

Lawmakers last year passed a bill to regulate and tax fantasy sports. In doing so, someone also snipped out a bit of state gambling code that said people could legally wager only on games held on the casino floor. 

The federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 bans sports gambling in all states except Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana. New Jersey has battled this in court for years, with other states joining in, arguing it’s unconstitutional under the 10th Amendment’s provisions for states rights. The U.S. Supreme Court last year agreed to hear the case, and a ruling will come by June 25.

Mississippi Gaming Commission Director Allen Godfrey has said the new Mississippi law allows sports betting, subject to regulation by the commission.

“It will be just another type of game offered in a legal casino operation,” Godfrey said.

Godfrey said that even if the ruling were to come as late as the June 25 deadline, and it removes the federal ban, the commission would have regulations and approvals finalized and sports betting could begin in casinos “within 45 to 60 days, before football season.”

New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and West Virginia have also passed state measures allowing legal sports betting, should the federal ban be lifted by the high court.

There could be financial benefit to Mississippi’s gambling industry being early out of the gate, pun intended. It could be a shot in the arm for the state’s casinos, many of which are financially ailing.

“Florida’s not talking about it. Tennessee’s not talking about it. Nor is Arkansas or Georgia,” Godfrey said. “Louisiana has about 35 days left in its legislative session, and that topic is not getting much traction. No one within our drive-in market is having that conversation.”

No one is really sure how large the current (mostly illegal) U.S. sports betting market is, although many cite a $150 billion a year figure. In Nevada, legal sports gambling accounts for 2 to 4 percent of annual gross gambling revenue of $10 million to $11 million a year. Mississippi’s gross gambling revenue is about $2 billion.

But Godfrey said sports betting would mean more than just the actual gambling revenue for Mississippi casinos and their towns.

“It’s a very nice amenity for them to have that would generate more foot traffic during times of the week when foot traffic is not very high,” Godfrey said. “It would likely increase revenue at hotels, restaurants, etc.”

And it was passed in Mississippi without debate.




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MGM CEO: 'Poised To Immediately Take Advantage' Of Sports Betting – Legal Sports Report

MGM sports betting

MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren pointed to the New Jersey sports betting case as a potential win for investors.

Murren offered his thoughts on the federal sports wagering ban outside of Nevada — PASPA — unprompted at the end of Thursday’s Q1 earnings call. He envisions a win for New Jersey as a victory for MGM — owner of the Borgata in Atlantic City — as well.

“I think there should be great emphasis on what might happen at the Supreme Court,” Murren said. “Our legal experts seem very confident that PASPA will be overturned.”

That echoes what Murren said during last year’s Q4 call.

“If you add to that the fact that the Supreme Court will likely legalize sports betting this year, MGM is really poised to immediately take advantage of that opportunity. Sports as it relates to our performing events here and as it relates to our industry we believe is a significant avenue of growth for MGM Resorts in the future.”

Why Murren is confident a PASPA repeal bodes well for MGM

Murren highlighted “decades” of “building trust with regulators” in Nevada and the company’s expertise in sports betting as reasons for confidence.

“We intend to be the biggest beneficiary of commercial sports betting if the Supreme Court should overturn PASPA as early as June. We’ll talk to that in great detail at our investor day,” Murren said, speaking of an event planned for May.

MGM’s presence in many states considering sports gambling in case of a PASPA repeal positions it well to benefit. It already offers sports betting via its Nevada properties and has an online sports betting app called playMGM.

Other MGM properties:

  • Mississippi: Beau Rivage in Biloxi and Gold Strike in Tunica
  • Michigan: MGM Grand Detroit
  • Massachusetts: MGM Springfield (opening later this year)
  • Maryland: MGM National Harbor
  • Illinois: Grand Victoria

Mississippi in particular could be ready to flip the switch within a few months.

MGM placing its faith in the sports world

While Thursday’s call highlighted some of MGM struggles in Las Vegas and saw its stock drop, Murren sounded bullish on sports aiding the company’s future. MGM partnered with AEG to build T-Mobile Arena on the Strip and is heavily invested in the success of the Vegas Golden Knights.

In addition to hockey, MGM purchased the San Antonio WNBA franchise and moved it to Las Vegas. The rebranded Las Vegas Aces begin play at Mandalay Bay Events Center later this month.

Mandalay Bay also stands as the closest resort to the new Raiders stadium being built directly across the interstate. Murren said Thursday he anticipates the resort being the prime destination for football fans before and after Raiders games.

Photo by Ron Cogswell used under license CC BY 2.0.

Adam Candee

Adam Candee
Adam Candee covers sports business and news in Las Vegas. Adam arrived in Las Vegas in 1989, and is a former editor and reporter at the Las Vegas Sun and KLAS-TV.

Poll: Majority Favors Legal Sports Betting, But Nearly Half Say Wagering Would Hurt Game Integrity – Legal Sports Report

sports betting poll

A new poll raises some questions about the morals of US sports bettors.

Seton Hall Sports Poll released abbreviated results of its most recent study, which polled Americans’ views on sports betting legislation. According to the poll, the majority of Americans now support legalization of sports betting. It reinforces the recent result from The Washington Post.

At the same time, however, a majority also feel that betting would negatively impact the integrity of those events.

The poll comes ahead of a decision in the US Supreme Court sports betting case about the federal ban outside of Nevada.

A strange response pair

Here are the two questions and answers that need to be examined in tandem:

  • Would you be in favor of legalized betting on sports events?
    • Yes: 55%
    • No: 35%
    • Don’t know/No opinion: 10%
  • Do you think legalized sports betting would negatively impact the integrity of sporting events?
    • Yes: 48%
    • No: 42%
    • Don’t know/No opinion: 10%

About a third of respondents answered “Yes” to both questions.

Rick Gentile, who directed the poll, summed up the results like this: “A majority favors gambling, and by a slimmer margin think the games might be fixed as a result.”

Of course, that’s a terribly troubling stance if it represents the true views of the public.

“It’s outrageous when you think about it,” Gentile said. “It comes close to saying, ‘We don’t care about the legitimacy of the games, what matters is being able to bet on them.’”

The professional sports leagues might be particularly upset at the result of this poll. They’ve spent months visiting lawmakers across the country, warning about integrity concerns in an expanded market.

One of the main reasons to create a legal market to compete with the black market for sports betting is to help the integrity of games. There is no transparency or accountability on this front on the black market, where tens of billions are wagered each year.

Other poll responses

The Sharkey Institute has been running SHS sports betting polls for years now, but there were a couple new questions on this one.

One asked whether respondents thought the decision on legalization should be in the hands of individual states or the federal government. This question provided the most lopsided response on the board, with 62 percent of respondents answering “State control.” Only 27 percent answered “Federal control.”

Most respondents (49 percent) also feel that collegiate betting should be available alongside professional sports. A fair amount, though (36 percent) would prefer betting limited to the pros.

As we typically see with the results from SHS, there were some prevailing social threads in the results, too. Those most supportive of sports betting tend to be younger, male respondents of modest means and education.

The SHS phone poll included 736 respondents selected at random from across the country. The Sharkey Institute cites a margin of error of +/- 3.7 percent.