A Connecticut gambling expansion bill that includes online poker among several soon-to-be-authorized activities is only two steps away from becoming law after being passed by the state’s senate on Tuesday. House Bill 6451, which easily cleared that lower body on Monday, received a second overwhelming approval with Tuesday’s 28-6 Senate vote.
The bill now moves to the desk of Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, who has already said he will sign the measure into law. Lamont’s office led the state’s efforts to renegotiate its existing gambling compacts with the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes to legalize sports betting and most forms of casino-style gambling, including online poker.
Once Lamont signs the bill into law, Connecticut will become the seventh US state to approve online poker. While sites operated by the two tribes’ casinos — Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods — will be approved as early as July 1, it will likely be several more months before a real-money rollout.
Federal approval process also remains
Lamont’s signature is a surety, though the measure’s final step — approval by the US Department of the Interior — isn’t quite as sure of a deal. All tribal gaming compacts in the US must be approved by the DOI’s Bureau of Indian Affairs and its National Indian Gaming Commission.
The DOI and the tribal agencies must ensure that the terms of the compact between Connecticut and the two tribes doesn’t violate the terms of the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), which could potentially affect the two tribes’ ability to offer remote gambling at Connecticut locations not on their reservations.
IGRA restrictions have been in the news of late. They may impact a similar gambling-compact expansion in Florida, but the Connecticut deal includes sublicensing language designed specifically to meet IGRA requirements. The language is similar to a gambling expansion deal in Arizona that has already received DOI and NIGC approval.
Mainstream reports overlook Connecticut online poker inclusion
Most news reports, especially from mainstream outlets, haven’t specified whether online poker is included in the bill. Though such reports have focused on sports betting and the larger, generalized category of online casino games, Connecticut’s poker players can rest assured that their favorite game is included.
From the language of HB 6451 (boldface ours):
“(21) ‘Online casino gaming’ means (A) slots, blackjack, craps, roulette, baccarat, poker and video poker, bingo, live dealer and other peer-to-peer games and any variations of such games, and (B) any games authorized by the department, conducted over the Internet, including through an Internet web site or a mobile device, through an electronic wagering platform that does not require a bettor to be physically present at a facility.”
Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun are both already among the Northeast’s most prominent destinations for live poker. With online poker among the specifically approved activities in the bill, it leaves little doubt that online games will be rolled out along with other casino gaming offerings.