The owner of this OTB in Stamford would love to add sports betting. mark pazniokas / ctmirror.org

When it comes to legalized sports betting in Connecticut, it’s time that all of the parties gathered in a room and hammered out an agreement that works for everyone. The adage of everyone benefiting from a rising tide hasn’t resonated in the past two and half years.

Bill Field

All of the major brands − Mohegan Sun, Foxwoods, CT Lottery and Sportech − have dug entrenched positions in an ongoing and testy close to three-year tug of war, with no one yielding even an inch.  There is no winner; so everyone is losing.  Meanwhile, all of their respective brand halos are being tarnished as they’re increasingly perceived as being inflexible and wanting to have their cake and eat it too. This includes the sports betting industry brand giant, DraftKings, who has partnered with Foxwoods.  They can’t be pleased about the lack of betting “action.”

More than half the states in the U.S. have sanctioned legalized sports betting.  Being a sports fan today seems to be inexorably linked to sports betting. The public in Connecticut that is chomping at the bit to place wagers on sporting events has grown weary of the “compact” excuse that’s constantly thrown up by the respective tribes.  The slot-machine revenue that flowed so freely to the state has dwindled.  The case that mobile and sports wagering are traditional casino games is weak.  It stinks of greed that has critical brand blowback to the casinos.  The public perception is that the casino brands are tone deaf by not embracing a reasonable solution.

Consider the income that the Connecticut casinos have lost since sports betting was legalized in the U.S. back in 2018.  If a compromise had been worked out, their on-site sports books would have been filled to capacity on NFL football Sundays and during the opening two-day frenzy of March Madness.  Foot traffic would be way up.  Hotel rooms filled to capacity.  Millions of dollars of incremental revenue would have flowed into their coffers.  It would have been a win/win for casinos and their patrons.  The all-or-nothing strategy has led to nothing.

As other states have proven, the real sports betting pot of gold is in the online/phone app world.  In 2020, close to $6 billion was wagered in New Jersey. This is an astonishing figure given that the sports world was dark from March to June in 2020.  The New Jersey political machine is glad that both Connecticut and New York are dragging their feet.  Connecticut continues to leave money on the table at a time when they can least afford it.

The CT Lottery, with 2,900 lottery retailers, is well positioned to offer another brick-and-mortar sports betting solution.  They’ve been in the lottery business for decades. The public trusts the CT Lottery brand.  Based upon generating $1.33 billion in revenue in 2019, they’ve certainly earned a place at the sports betting table; however, it continues to be dismissed by the casinos.

Sportech offers up their full-service Winners betting venues, web and mobile betting channels, and upscale sports bar locations – Bobby V’s Restaurant and Sports Bar, courtesy of Connecticut sports legend Bobby Valentine.  Another important brand that needs to have a seat at the negotiation table.

As the calendar pages turn in 2021, there continues to be no winner.  Everyone loses at a time when the State of Connecticut is in dire need of the promise of a new revenue stream from sports betting.  It’s time for all the sports betting brand contenders to lock themselves away and hammer out a solution that benefits all parties. The winner-take-all strategy is a failed one.  Everyone needs to quit negotiating through back channels.  Find a way for each brand to feel like they won the negotiation, while at the very same time understanding that they left something on the table. That is a successful negotiation.  The citizens of Connecticut expect this from you.

Finalize a deal and put your brands in a better place to benefit your enterprise and the State of Connecticut.

Bill Field lives in Monroe. 

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