Connecticut Casinos and Gambling

Short Summary:  Connecticut is somewhat liberal when it comes to gambling laws.  In addition to land-based casinos with full offerings operated by the tribes with whom Connecticut works closely;  the state has legal and regulated charitable gambling, simulcast racing wagering and lottery. Tracks can theoretically offer live racing, and certainly did in the past, but none currently do. Connecticut currently has no regulated online gambling, but we expect they may within the next several years.

The State of Connecticut may be one of the more Liberal states, in general, but you wouldn’t know it from their gambling laws. The state seems stuck in the past as it does not even license or regulate its own Commercial Casinos. The following forms of gambling are legal within the state:

  • Charitable Gaming
  • Lottery
  • Tribal Gaming
  • Pari-Mutuel

However, the state does work pretty closely with the tribes as the tribes pay the state a fee (it’s technically not a tax, because the state has no actual taxing jurisdiction on Tribal land) of 25% of all slot revenues. In exchange, the state was not supposed to compete with the tribes who operate two casinos: Foxwoods Resort and Mohegan Sun. The state did pass a bill to expand gambling to other parts of the state and the tribes were immediately flabbergasted and stated that would invalidate the agreement.

From that article:

The compacts with the tribes that operate Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun requires the casinos to pay 25 percent of their slot machine revenue to the state. The agreements have brought the state $6.5 billion since the arrival of slots in 1993. In return, the tribes have the exclusive right to operate the lucrative slot machines.


Slot revenues peaked at $430 million in the 2007 fiscal year and have since fallen to $267 million in the current fiscal year. The revenue is projected to fall to $191 million in the 2018 fiscal year as the tribes face competition in Springfield, Mass., and from places like Aqueduct in Queens, N.Y., and Yonkers Raceway in Westchester County, N.Y.

From my perspective, it’s perfectly understandable why the tribes would be upset. Here you have the coffers of The State of Connecticut raking in literally billions of dollars and now they are going to bite the hand that has fed and give them competition. The state made all this money for all of those years whilst doing essentially nothing as they don’t even really regulate the tribal gaming.

More than that, it couldn’t come at a worse time as the casinos’ revenues have fallen significantly in the face of Regional competition.

Fortunately, it appears that the state and the Tribes are looking to strike a deal that would see the tribes own and operate a casino that is located off of Tribal land, but would presumably be bound by the same or similar terms with the state.

From that story:

The “satellite” casino is aimed at blunting the competitive threat of MGM Resorts International’s casino and entertainment complex in Springfield, scheduled to open Aug. 24. Supporters of the expansion say the third casino would help preserve jobs and revenue tied to the state’s casino industry. Each month, the state gets a 25 percent cut of slot revenue from Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun.

The two tribes are working together with the state to create this, “Satellite,” casino and, for the time being, it looks like it will be the only casino on soil actually belonging to the State of Connecticut.

MGM Resorts International is not terribly pleased because this casino is designed to compete directly against their new property in Springfield, Massachusetts. MGM applied, apparently, for a casino license in Connecticut, but they claim that they were not able to compete for one on equal grounds as the state greatly favored the Tribe.

Unfortunately, this is just another one of those cases in which Corporate greed would outweigh common sense. The fact of the matter is that the tribes have kept up their end of the bargain with the State of Connecticut for decades, so they would have reason to complain if the state were to open a casino that competes with their revenue stream. More importantly than that, the state’s side of the deal for 25% of slot revenues was essentially a non-compete clause with the tribes.

Thus, Connecticut would be in a lose-lose situation had the license been awarded to MGM Resorts International. The Tribes could make a very compelling case that they shouldn’t have to pay the State of Connecticut anymore for essentially violating the non-compete clause. The only way that Connecticut could even hope to bring in the same amount of revenues into the state’s coffers would be to either tax the East Windsor casino at a much higher percentage, or to hope that the East Windsor casino draws significantly more slot revenue (it won’t) than the Tribal casinos.

Connecticut conducts a state lottery through the Connecticut Lottery Corporation, which is also called the CT Lottery. This lottery is linked to multi-state jackpots such as Powerball and Mega Millions. Pari-Mutuel wagering is also legal in the state, though there do not seem to be any horse tracks offering live wagering at the moment, though that is also legal for horses. Instead, the Mohegan Sun offers simulcast wagering and places such as Bobby V’s.

In Stamford, Connecticut, are also permitted to offer off-track betting.

Charitable Bingo is permitted in the State of Connecticut, but the tax rate on the charity’s winnings is actually higher than it is in most states. The State of Connecticut cuts out 5% of the win after all the prizes are paid, which is essentially 5% of all direct bingo revenues, which is more than what most other states charge. In fact, some states do not charge anything except for a small license fee.

Online Gambling Legality In Connecticut

Connecticut has an unusual clause in the codes that makes, “Professional Gambling,” in general, illegal. This is actually just a strange phrasing because the definition clearly refers to operators:

“Professional gambling means accepting or offering to accept, for profit, money, credits, deposits or other things of value risked in gambling, or any claim thereon or interest therein. Without limiting the generality of this definition, the following shall be included: Pool-selling and bookmaking; maintaining slot machines, one-ball machines or variants thereof, pinball machines, which award anything other than an immediate and unrecorded right of replay, roulette wheels, dice tables, or money or merchandise pushcards, punchboards, jars or spindles, in any place accessible to the public; and except as provided in sections 7-169 to 7-186, inclusive, conducting lotteries, gift enterprises, disposal or sale of property by lottery or hazard or policy or numbers games, or selling chances therein; and the following shall be presumed to be included: Conducting any banking game played with cards, dice or counters, or accepting any fixed share of the stakes therein;”

The State of Connecticut also goes on to make, “Participation in Gambling,” unlawful, unless all of the participants are natural persons who are not engaging in professional gambling. More simply put, that just means that social, “Home games,” with no vig or house edge are permitted by law.

In terms of enforcement of anti-gambling laws, the only things we have been able to find are a poker ring being broken up and the arrests of some operators of an online sportsbetting ring. The players themselves were left alone in these instances.

Other than that, the statute is mostly ambiguous, though it does make it unlawful to use a computer to, “Transmit gambling information,” but again, that is something that would focus on operators.

We have found no instance of a mere player ever getting in any sort of trouble for gambling online in Connecticut and would be shocked to ever see it enforced.

More than that, players who lose money via means of unlawful gambling technically have a form of redress available to them in the state. They have right of recovery by way of a lawsuit and any player who initiates such an action, the statute says, is granted immunity from prosecution. If you lost money to an offshore operator operating unlawfully within the state, you could technically sue and win, of course, the state has no legal means by which to actually enforce collection.

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Land Casinos In Connecticut

Foxwoods Resort Casino

Owned and operated by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, the Foxwoods is a monolithic structure consisting of more than 5,500 slot machines, video keno and video poker devices as well as over 250 table games. Poker tables are also offered with Foxwoods occasionally hosting major tournaments that bring in professional players from around the world. That should come as no surprise given its status as the third-largest poker room in the world. In addition to a two-story arcade, this location features a huge Tanger Outlets Mall (there are a few of these scattered throughout the country) as well as a hotel consisting of over 2,000 rooms.

As few as fifteen years ago, the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun had a virtual gridlock on casino gambling in the upper Northeast with virtually no competition whatsoever. At the time, the only major casino destinations in the entire region were Atlantic City and the two tribal casinos in Connecticut. Times have changed and the casino’s revenues have dipped substantially as a result. That is also true for Mohegan Sun. It is for this reason that the two tribes are coming together to open a new casino to be located in East Windsor.

Mohegan Sun Casino

Owned and operated by the Mohegan Tribe, this casino contains everything that Foxwoods does and also has a racebook for simulcast wagering. There is over 100,000 feet of retail shopping space. Slots, video poker, video keno, table games and live poker can all be found at this casino. There are over 6,500 slot machines as well as over 350 total tables; including live poker.

Mohegan Sun, unfortunately for them, faced the same general problem that Foxwoods did with soaring debt. The size and scope of these two properties was always such that they essentially relied upon being the area’s premier destination casinos as well as having little to no Regional competition. Unfortunately for them, they borrowed heavily just before the 2008, “Great Recession,” with an eye towards an expansion of their premises, and expand they did, but that was followed by revenues immediately plummeting as a result of the recession.

The recovery has been slow and it is increasingly unlikely that the numbers will ever get back to where they were. As we mentioned above, these casinos face increasing Regional competition with new competition popping up in the last fifteen years from Pennsylvania, elsewhere in New York, Delaware, Maine and now Massachusetts. The possibility also remains that the few states that don’t have any Commercial Casinos may eventually legalize and regulate same.

Mohegan Sun branched into some of these states, apparently, they considered the old adage, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” In addition to the joint effort with the Mashantucket Pequot tribe in East Windsor, Mohegan Sun took over management of Resorts Casino in Atlantic City and also opened Mohegan Sun Pocono in Pennsylvania.

Connecticut Lottery

Connecticut offers a state-run lottery that includes draw jackpot games, instant lottery tickets, and scratch-off tickets. The multi-state Mega Millions lottery and Powerball lottery are also both available in the state.

The state is also one of the few where you can find self-serve lottery vending machines where you can buy lottery tickets without a store clerk. They were used in the 1990’s but were taken out of service before 2000 because people under the legal age to buy a ticket could use the vending machines to get lottery tickets. New vending lottery machines were introduced in 2010 that have a way to verify age and refuse service to minors.

If you are a certain age you probably remember cigarette vending machines. You simply put your money in, pulled a lever or knob, and a pack of cigarettes came out. These were mostly done away with for the same reason; underage people were buying cigarettes. If the technology on the Connecticut self-serve lottery terminals actually works to prevent minors from buying lottery tickets can the reintroduction of self-serve cigarette machines be far behind?

Slot Machine Ownership

If you live in Connecticut you aren’t allowed to legally own any type of slot machine. Many states let their citizens own antique slot machines but Connecticut is one of five states that completely outlaw slots ownership. For the state with two of the largest casinos in the world this may seem like a hypocritical stand, but remember that both casinos are owned and operated by Native American Indian tribes.

State laws about gambling and gambling machines or devices usually differ widely between Native American Indians and everyone else.

Just like the other states that limit or outlaw the ownership of slot machines and have a state lottery, the hypocritical nature of gambling laws around the United States is sometimes baffling. Unless you’re a Native American Indian you can’t own anything gambling related, but we’ll sell you lottery tickets offering much worse odds than almost every casino game.

Dog Tracks In Connecticut

Connecticut is one of only a few states in which live greyhound racing is still legal. An effort to illegalize the practice passed the State Senate but failed the House in 2017. As a practical matter, no track offers live greyhound racing, nor has any track for several years.

Shoreline Star Greyhound Park theoretically could operate live greyhound racing, but for the last several years, they have existed only as a simulcast center as part of Winners Connecticut, which all Connecticut OTB falls under.

Conclusion And Prognosis

On its face, it would seem that Connecticut is restrictive when it comes to gambling, but once you peel back the layers, you realize that they are simply inclined to work with the tribes as much as possible. That makes sense because they can just sit back, collect their 25% of the slot revenues and otherwise not have to worry about anything.

Connecticut is fairly reasonable when it comes to Charitable Gambling, with exception to the fact that the taxes are perhaps a little high at five percent. Social gambling is permitted, provided nobody is taking a vig or offering a game for which there is a house edge. In other words, something like a home poker game with no rake is perfectly fine.

Connecticut also offers a lottery as well as pari-mutuel betting in the form of off-track betting. Horse and dog racing live are both legal, but have not been practiced for several years; presumably because it is not a profitable operation.

Connecticut is one state we could see permitting online gambling, perhaps offered through websites owned by the tribes, within the next several years as the surrounding states seem to be increasingly doing so. New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania already have this, and Mohegan Sun already has online casino operators that they work with (via Resorts) as a result.

While Connecticut does not technically have licensed and regulated Commercial Casinos that it governs, they are allowing the Tribes to operate a casino on state land in East Windsor under the same agreements that apply to the Tribal land. Unfortunately, these efforts have been stalled, at least for the time being.

Because MGM wants to come into the state and cut money off from the tribes as the MGM Springfield, fewer than twenty miles away in Massachusetts, plans to cripple Mohegan Sun, Foxwoods and both of the tribes with no hope of recovery.