OP-ED | Make Sportech Part of the Casino Solution
Sportech — as the only other licensed gaming operator in the state besides the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Tribes — should be included in any legislation that expands gaming in Connecticut if we are to protect jobs and grow our economy.
The bill passed last week by the Senate ignores our concerns and our jobs in favor of the interests of the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes — trading one job for another job is a not a solution. Any bill passed by the legislature that looks to expand gaming in the state should incorporate all interests in this important issue. Anything less is a bad deal for Connecticut.
Sportech, which employs 400 people across the state, is concerned about the impact gaming expansion will have on its business and the people it employs. Sportech has made significant investments in Connecticut over the last few years, and the state should consider our business and employees as it looks to expand casino gaming beyond the two tribal reservations for the first time in the state’s history. The state should ensure that, when considering the issue, all stakeholders, including Sportech, are treated fairly and equally rather than excluded from and destroyed by the process. We must wisely evaluate possible solutions to Connecticut’s serious economic challenges in order to grow our economy.
We urge the legislature to consider/include the following initiatives to help protect Sportech jobs, help us to continue to grow our business in Connecticut, and generate state revenue:
First, the state should establish a pari-mutuel stabilization fund, whereby 2 percent of casino gross gaming revenue is set aside to support Connecticut’s pari-mutuel business due to the expected lost revenue from a third Connecticut casino. The fund would be earmarked for continued investment in Sportech’s Connecticut business, and continued funding reviewed annually to monitor the effectiveness of the program.
We also request a change to existing law to increase the number of off-track betting branches in Connecticut. Current law caps the number of off-track betting branches that Sportech can operate at 18. By the end of 2017, Sportech expects to open its 17th off-track betting branch. The current maximum number of off-track betting branches will not allow Sportech to remain competitive in Connecticut’s and the region’s rapidly changing gaming market. Sportech requests an increase in the number of off-track betting branches from 18 to 24. Municipal approval for each location is still required by statute. Approval of more off-track betting branches will allow Sportech to continue to invest in and grow its Connecticut business.
Lastly, Connecticut needs to begin laying the groundwork for legalized sports betting. Approximately $150 billion is wagered illegally in the United States on sports, resulting in billions in lost tax revenue for states. In a few years changes in federal law may permit more states to offer sports betting and several states, including Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, have already proposed sports betting legislation to come into effect once the federal issue is resolved.
Connecticut should join in this process now by laying the groundwork for a licensing process for legal sports betting in the state. Doing so will create new Connecticut jobs and allow for additional tax revenue for the state (as much as $75-$100 million in annual tax revenue). The Department of Consumer Protection should study the impact of legal sports betting in the state, consider an RFP process and licensing arrangement, and report back to the legislature by year’s end with its recommendations.
Ted Taylor is President of Sportech Venues. Learn more at OneCasinoSolution.com.
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