Sports Haven operator lobbies for legalized sports betting

BY Joe Cooper

Photo | Contributed
Photo | Contributed
A rendering of Bobby V's restaurant in Windsor Locks.
Sportech Venues Inc., the operator of 16 parimutuel betting parlors across Connecticut including Sports Haven in New Haven, lobbied lawmakers Thursday to legalize sports betting.

The UK-based company also wants a piece of the action, offering to assist in the implementation of a Connecticut sports betting industry, which would be created if lawmakers adopt House Bill 5307.

Ted Taylor, the president of Sportech in Connecticut, provided written testimony to the Public Safety and Security Committee Thursday on the bill, arguing that his company, which employs more than 400 people in the state, is "uniquely positioned" to help implement sports betting in the state.

The bill would require the state Department of Consumer Protection to regulate sports betting should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn federal prohibitions to states.

Preliminary estimates show that Connecticut could gain $40 million to $80 million annually by imposing fees on sports betting, lawmakers have said. House Democratic leaders have said the state would be regulating and taxing an industry that already exists — legally in a handful of other states and underground across the nation.

Taylor said estimates suggest that Connecticut residents annually wager more than $600 million on sports with illegal gaming operations. The illegal activity, he says, is unregulated, untaxed and offers no protections for the customers.

Taylor said Sportech, working with the state's two casinos, could deliver safe sports betting that would reap new tax revenues for the state.

"These locations operate within the tightly regulated environments the state has historically required and have also been through the complicated local approval process required by each municipality," he said.

The bill also received backing Thursday from the Connecticut Lottery Corp., though, Attorney General George Jepsen warned state lawmakers to "proceed carefully."

Jepsen also submitted written testimony Thursday, which cautioned that the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes could argue in court that legalizing sports wagering would violate their slots-revenue agreements with the state, and therefore "could cease making payments to the state."

Currently Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods are required to provide the state with 25 percent of their annual slots revenues.

"These are difficult and complex questions," Jepsen said. "They have significant fiscal and policy ramifications."

Steve Wagner, the director of information technology for Connecticut Lottery Corp., meanwhile, said that sports betting exists throughout the nation and that prohibition "has done nothing" to deter sports betting.

Legalization, Wagner said, would keep sports betting regulated in a "safe and secure environment,"adding that all proceeds from Connecticut's legal sports betting industry would be returned to the state --"just like all other lottery games."

If legalized at the federal and state level, he said Connecticut could implement sports betting similar to the Delaware model "fairly quickly."