If and when legalized sports betting comes to New England, how it’s implemented likely will vary among the region’s six states.
In our series on sports gambling, NESN.com examined how Massachusetts plans to prepare, enact and profit from legalized sports betting. We also looked at Rhode Island, which is a few months away from opening legal sports gambling in the state.
But what about the Bay and Ocean States’ neighbors?
The Nutmeg State likely would be on the fast track toward legal sports gambling, if it weren’t for ongoing negotiations between the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes, who own Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun, respectively. The tribes feel they have the “exclusive right” to legal sports gambling in Connecticut, per the Hartford Courant.
Shortly after the United States Supreme Court voted in May to end the federal ban on sports gambling, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy expressed a desire to hold a special summer session to discuss the issue, per the Courant. Since the Supreme Court’s decision enacted an existing law enabling Connecticut to legalize sports betting, the state hoped to have a bill passed in time for the 2018 NFL season. None of that can happen, however, until Connecticut reaches an agreement with the tribes.
Those negotiations reportedly haven’t gone exceptionally well, though.
“In general terms, we don’t have an agreement,” Malloy told The Day in June. “I think we’re a ways from an agreement, so don’t anyone hold your breath.”
“All we can say is that we continue to meet and appreciate the time everyone is committing to explore options,” Chuck Bunnell, the Mohegan tribe’s chief of staff, wrote in an email to The Day in June.
However, provided the two sides eventually come to terms, sports betting could arrive in Connecticut fairly soon. We also have a decent idea of what it will look like.
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz told The Day in June that he believes legislators are ready to pass a bill and get sports betting “up and running” at Mohegan Sun, Foxwoods and other facilities by September. He also anticipates the state will forgo sports betting at retail lottery locations but will utilize “some online platform.”
Furthermore, Aresimowicz wants to get something done as soon as possible.
“If other states are able to get up and running and have time to develop a stable customer base before we do, we’re going to be at a competitive disadvantage,” he told The Day.
The “Life Free or Die” motto might’ve led you to believe legalized sports betting already existed in the Granite State, but there actually is a law on the books explicitly banning gambling.
That said, New Hampshire seems eager to cash in on legal sports betting, even if it’s relatively late to the party.
“I’m working with the lottery commission to figure out what their feeling on it is and how we can move it forward,” Sen. Lou D’Allesandro told NESN.com. “It’s a $1.3 billion business across the country. … It really is an untapped revenue source. And when the Supreme Court said it was OK, everybody was going to jump on it.
“But we’ve got to think about it thoughtfully, find out how we can (integrate) it with existing activities that take place in our state, and move forward.”
So, what might sports betting look like in New Hampshire?
“I think the only way this works is it’s got to be mobile, that’s the way the population is moving in,” D’Allesandro said. “I’ve got to work with the lottery, because (Charles McIntyre, executive director of New Hampshire Lottery) has to to be in sync in order to make all of this work.”
New Hampshire currently doesn’t have major casinos like Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. But that doesn’t mean sports gamblers wouldn’t have land-based locations to place bets.
“There’s always an opportunity for land-based clubs to pop up,” D’Allesandro said. “They’re all over New Hampshire as we speak. We’ve got a lot of social clubs, and a lot of activity takes place in those social clubs. … People will be creative and innovative, as they always are.”
If you’re looking for odds, Gov. Chris Sununu provided this quip in an interview with USA Today in May:
“Legalized sports betting in New Hampshire? I’ll give it 3-to-1.”
The Green Mountain State appears far away from legalizing sports gambling.
The odds are that Vermont eventually pushes the legislative button. But in the meantime, the state seems disinterested in making legal sports betting a priority, let alone a reality, in Vermont.
“That’s not the answer to Vermont’s fiscal issues,” Gov. Phil Scott said after the Supreme Court’s decision in May, via the Burlington Free Press. “But I’m willing to listen.”
Vermont currently has no sports betting-related bill in the works, and the development of one in the near future seems “unlikely,” per the Press.
The state’s lottery also doesn’t seem to be in a rush to tackle the issue.
“I don’t know of anybody who is pushing for this in Vermont,” Danny Rachek, executive director of the Vermont Lottery, told the Press in May.
There’s hope for legalized sports betting in Maine, but don’t expect it anytime soon. The Pine Tree State, which already has land-based locations ready to adopt sports betting, such as the Oxford and Hollywood Casinos, would need to craft and pass a new law in order to enter the fray.
“I would say we were behind the 8-ball and that’s not uncommon for Maine to be that way,” said State Rep. Donald G. Marean told the Portland Press Herald in May.
There is hope for prospective gamblers in Maine, however.
State Rep. Louis Luchini told the Press Herald in May that he anticipates “multiple” sports betting bills will be introduced when legislators reconvene in 2019. Luchini, though, is wary Congress could step in at any time.
“Congress could regulate sports gambling, but they haven’t done it, so states are free to establish their own laws,” he told the Press Herald. “But there could be a risk of federal regulations at any time.”
All told, the sports gambling outlook in Maine and Vermont could be better. Still, there appears to be more hope than there is in Vermont, for example.
So relax, Mainers: Your time (probably) is coming.
As you can see, New England isn’t exactly on the same page as it pertains to legalized sports gambling. Some states appear months away, while others legitimately could wait years before acting. Those playing the long game, however, might end up regretting it.
Legal sports wagering likely is coming to the region, and soon. When it comes, how it arrives and what it looks like, however, remain to be seen.
Thumbnail photo via Suchat Pederson/The News Journal via USA TODAY Network