Sen. Hwang on Expanding Gaming in CT

March 2, 2021

Senator Tony Hwang (R-28) provides the following reaction to the Governor’s announcement today on the progress on an agreement to expand gaming in Connecticut.

“This morning while I was participating in the legislative public hearing on this subject with the Public Safety and Security Committee I was also watching the media provide piecemeal hints about a forthcoming online and sports gambling agreement. The cart-before-the-horse nature of the announcement from the Governor and the Mohegan Tribe leaves me with a number of unanswered questions.

Most importantly, let’s address the societal addiction to gambling. This is the absolute worst time to expand gaming. There is a considerable pandemic-battered population of people who are home, isolated, bored and spending the majority of their day staring at their computer or mobile phone. They are incredibly vulnerable to the addictive nature of gambling, especially when they can access platforms around the clock from the comfort of their own home.

There hasn’t been a study of gaming in Connecticut and its impacts since 2009, and now we are opening the floodgates for people to embark on a very difficult habit to manage.

If this is about revenue for the state and tribes, I would strongly urge all parties to refrain from preying on those most at-risk and vulnerable to addiction as a mechanism to increase revenue flow.  I am deeply concerned about the societal impact of unleashing online gambling and sports wagering when people are facing incredible mental, emotional and social isolation challenges.

Legally, I am concerned about the violation of the “due process’ provision of our Federal Constitution.  The unique Connecticut Tribal compacts agreement that gives the tribes a monopoly over gambling in Connecticut in exchange for guaranteed slot machine revenue. The monopolistic parameters of the compact have effectively shut the city of Bridgeport and other potential vendors out of the marketplace to hosting a casino or having any involvement in Connecticut gambling for over 25 years.

Further, it seems inadvisable to give the Connecticut Lottery more authority and responsibility over state sanctioned gambling, given its recent scandal-ridden headlines as a state quasi-public agency with evidence of employment abuses and costly management practices.

As a prior ranking senator on the Public Safety and security Committee I am acutely aware of the many sides to the conversation surrounding the introduction of online gambling and sports wagering to our state. There are serious risks to consider, and neither the 2021 bill proposals nor today’s announcement from Governor Lamont provide any substantial considerations of these risks.