Connecticut was the first East Coast state outside of New Jersey to venture into the land of legalized casino gambling. Its two tribal owned casinos, the extravagant Foxwoods and the all-inclusive resort Mohegan Sun provided a fresh alternative for poker grinders who grew distasteful of Atlantic City’s high crime rates and worn down casinos.
And then something happened. One by one, other states in the surrounding area began legalizing casino gambling. What resulted was a proverbial chess match in which one state would cannibalize patrons from another. Compounding matters further was the economic crash of 2008, which wreaked havoc on the countries gaming industry. As a result, Connecticut’s formerly burgeoning casinos are not faring significantly better than their counterparts in downtrodden Atlantic City .
Two years ago, Connecticut appeared well positioned to enter the iGaming arena. Its tribes and Governor Dan Mallory were largely onboard with the idea, and GOP opposition was not quite as adamant as it was in other states. Yet, due to the casino industry’s tumultuous financial downturn, the Mashantucket and Mohegan tribes have temporarily turned their attention north to Massachusetts, where they hope to become part of the Bay State’s prospective live casino market.
Once their affairs in MA are settled, the path towards iGaming legislation is relatively clear. But getting to that point has proven to take some time.
Can Players from Connecticut Play Real-Money Online Poker?
Although there are plenty of online poker sites that currently permit residents of Connecticut to mix it up on the virtual green felt, those numbers may diminish over the coming years. Of course should online poker be regulated in the Constitution State, we may see a renewed influx of activity, and hopefully some tie-ins between online poker rooms and the state’s two brick and mortar casinos.
The frequency in which players can find reputable, high volume legal poker sites is significantly higher in Europe than it is in the United States, where only three states have officially regulated online poker.
Is Online Poker Legal in Connecticut?
Connecticut’s gambling statutes are not quite the exercise in ambiguity that they are in most states, yet still refrain from making a single mention of online or Internet poker. With regards to how gambling is defined, the law has this to say; Section 53-278a:
Gambling means risking any money, credit, deposit or other thing of value for gain contingent in whole or in part upon lot, chance or the operation or a gambling device, including the playing of a casino gambling game such as blackjack, poker, craps, roulette or a slot machine…
No need to differentiate between games of skill and chance here, as the law makes specific reference to poker as a form of gambling.
Although the majority of Connecticut’s gambling statutes are aimed at illicit operators, players too are subject to penalties for engaging in gambling activities; Section 57-278b:
Any person who engages in gambling, or solicits or induces another to engage in gambling; or is present when another person or persons are engaging in gambling, shall be guilty of a class B misdemeanor.
Railbirds beware, even watching your buddies play cards is considering an actionable offense.
The law also defines
Professional gambling, but not in the one you would initially think. In this instance, professional gambling refers to operators who
[conduct] any banking game played with cards, dice or counters, or [accept] any fixed share of staked therein. The rake taken from a hand of poker would certainly constitute a
The penalty for operators is slightly more severe than it is for players: a class A misdemeanor. Those who take wagers over the phone are subject to similar penalties. This statue in particular would likely serve as the precursor to an online gambling law, should the state’s antiquated law ever be updated.
On a more amenable note, in so long as the participants have an existing relationship with one another and are not partaking in what the state deems as professional gambling, social gambling is permissible. Thus, poker players should have no reservations about playing a non-raked game with their friends.
Connecticut Gambling History
Connecticut, like other pre-Revolutionary colonies, would host myriad lotteries as a fund-raising mechanism. However, it wouldn’t be until 1939 that the state would usher in the regulated gambling era in the form of legalized charitable bingo. Sixteen years later, the state’s charitable gambling operation was extended to include raffles and casino nights.
The 1970’s were a particularly active time in Connecticut’s gambling scene. In 1972, CT would become one of the early pioneers of the state lottery. Shortly thereafter, off-track betting and greyhound racing would be legalized.
In the 1980’s several attempts were made to regulate casino gambling, but it wouldn’t be until the passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 that the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation would gain access to a regulatory framework that would soon give birth to one of the largest casinos in the world.
Although Foxwoods  would open as a bingo parlor in 1986, it wouldn’t be until table games and slots were added by 1993 that the casino would truly begin to thrive. In the subsequent years, a high-limit area and prestigious poker room would be added – vaulting Foxwoods into premier East Coast gaming status. It would retain its prominence until 2007, when the economic recession and the presence of more casinos on the East Coast began to take their tolls on Foxwoods’ profit margins.
Mohegan Sun would follow as the state’s second tribal casino in 1996. By state mandate, both casinos are required to pay 25 percent of their annual revenue to state coffers.
Regulated Gambling Options in Connecticut
When it comes to gambling regulations, Connecticut is more liberal than most. In addition to offering two full-scale tribal casinos, the state hosts a multi-jurisdiction lottery and a varied palette of charitable gambling and off-track betting options.
Due to safety and exploitative concerns, greyhound racing has not been conducted in Connecticut since 2006. Connecticut also lacks commercial casinos.
Other recent headlines
Mohegan Sun’s plan to construct a $1.3 billion casino resort in Revere, Massachusetts was accepted by voters, with 63 percent voting in favor of the project . The casino, which would be built alongside Suffolk Downs, is awaiting license approval from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. Voters will decide whether or not to repeal the state’s casino law in November 2014 via referendum.
In other news, Foxwoods will be utilizing Bally Technologies mobile casino platform . Bally’s harnesses the power of a cloud-based mobile platform that facilitates the ease in which casino patrons can view offers, book reservations and check their loyalty statuses. Whether or not Foxwoods arrangement with Bally’s will serve as the precursor to an iGaming partnership is currently unknown.
The Future of Regulated Online Gambling in Connecticut
Connecticut boasts a unique position in that both of its preeminent tribes are largely on board with online gaming expansion. However, due to tumbling casinos revenue, New Jersey’s unimpressive first year in the iGaming space and the uncertainty surrounding Mohegan Sun’s and Foxwoods’ license status in Massachusetts, Connecticut has adopted more of a
wait and see attitude towards iGaming.
Expect this to remain the case until at least November 2014, when voters ultimately decide Massachusetts’ gambling fate. Depending on the result, the tribes may either focus all of their creative and financial efforts on Massachusetts or pivot to online gambling. In either scenario, Connecticut will likely foray into digital gambling, although due to its smallish population of 3.6 million, expect it to quickly explore the viability of interstate compacts.
To conclude, the real remaining question is not if Connecticut will adapt iGaming, but when.