Happy Thanksgiving from GGB; Newsletter Returns December 4

Connecticut Gaming Expansion ‘Wildly Successful,’ But Concerns Arise About Problem Gambling

Connecticut went live with iGaming and sports betting last fall, and in the first few months, bettors spent more than $2 billion on sports wagers alone. State Senator Cathy Osten (l.) called the rollout “wildly successful,” but supports a planned study on problem gambling.

Connecticut Gaming Expansion ‘Wildly Successful,’ But Concerns Arise About Problem Gambling

Last month, the Connecticut legislature’s Public Safety and Security Committee met to discuss possible negative impacts of a recent gaming expansion, which added sports betting and iGaming to the mix. Now the committee is planning to study the prevalence of gambling problems in the state.

The expansion was approved last May, with bets going live in October. By December 31, sports bettors had wagered $2.1 billion online as well as at sportsbooks at Mohegan Sun, Foxwoods and retail locations run by the Connecticut Lottery. About 85 percent of bets were placed online, according to the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection.

Diane Goode, executive director of the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling told the Hartford Courant a gambling study would be “fantastic. There was legislation put in place about 15 years ago saying that every 10 years, we need to study in gambling, and we haven’t had one in 14 years. A lot has changed in 14 years. … We really think it’s important to understand what’s out there and what’s happening to people.”

State Senator Cathy Osten, co-chairwoman of the committee, agrees. She told GGB News a gambling study set for 2017 “was never funded. This year, we’re looking to bring this gambling study forward and add a few things. We want to look at correct, evidence-based programs for problem gambling. We want to provide people with the resources they need to access the program. We want to see if the program is robust enough. Are we making the programs easy enough to access?”

Up and Running

Those concerns aside, Osten hailed the expansion as “wildly successful.

“It got things up and running,” she said. “We ended the session in June of last year, and we’re already up and running. The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation has the brick-and-mortar for its sportsbook built out. Mohegan Sun’s will be done sometime this month. The lottery has 11 of its 15 facilities up and running.”

Osten’s district includes both tribal casinos, and she’s been a consistent champion for expanded tribal gaming over the years. “We believe that sports betting and online betting are going in the right direction,” she said. “We may need to tweak the access of payment programs like PayPal and other things that are used in lieu of cash.”

Regarding payment options, Osten called the law “overly prescriptive. It only allows one credit card. It considers PayPal a credit card, but many people use other forms, such as cards that deduct directly from their checking accounts.”

Such payments “are not allowed according to the office of Consumer Protection. That’s one component we might want to look at, to allow current forms of payment that people are using that are becoming more and more common. Online payments are certainly becoming more and more prolific.”

Betting on fantasy sports, which was also legalized last year, also may need a “tweak,” said Osten. “The problem is that many daily fantasy games work across state lines, whereas the current law only allows intrastate games.”

Helpline Calls Spike

Osten is not unmindful of the concerns that come with widespread access to gaming. The Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling reports a sharp increase in the number of calls to its helpline since the launch of online gaming in Connecticut. As Goode told the Courant, “Helpline calls have … pretty much quadrupled since the start of sports betting and online gambling.

“We have seen not just an increase in calls, but an increase in chats as well, which I think really reflects the new demographic. When you used to talk about problem gambling, you think about the little old lady at the slot machine. The new demographic now are 20-something males. So we really are seeing an uptick in chats and texts.”

According to Osten, the Pequots and Mohegans have dedicated $500,000 “each and every year” to fund problem gambling programs. “In the bill, the lottery gave $2.5 million for problem gambling programming. That increased by a million dollars, with a portion going to the problem gambling hotline.”

The hotline might need more funding, said Osten, “but it would be funding to hire more people” to respond to calls.

Osten anticipates the study will be done by the beginning of the next legislative session. “It’s successful that we’ve been able to (expand betting) quickly,” she said. “People seem to enjoy doing it, and now we are dealing with the consequences of increased gaming.”

Goode, meanwhile, said the problem is growing faster than she anticipated. “I didn’t think it would increase this fast,” she recently told the New London Day. “Normally, it takes a problem gambler a while to hit rock bottom and raise their hand. I thought we’d have six months to a year to sort things out, but people are losing everything in a weekend. The speed with which people are losing all their money has been shocking as far as I’m concerned.”

Lottery Milestone

The Connecticut Lottery Corporation (CLC) celebrating its golden anniversary this week, marking 50 years from its first day of lottery sales. In recognition of the CLC’s 50th Anniversary, Governor Ned Lamont has proclaimed today “Connecticut Lottery Day” in Connecticut. The CLC will continue to celebrate its anniversary throughout the year with a slate of commemorative games, promotions, marketing campaigns, and special events to highlight “50 Years of Winning.”

“Our golden anniversary milestone is something we’re extremely pleased to celebrate, because the Lottery has benefitted everyone in Connecticut through the billions returned to the General Fund,” said Greg Smith, President & CEO, CLC. “We thank the founders of the Connecticut Lottery for getting us off the ground in 1972, and also extend our gratitude to all those, past and present, who have made the Connecticut Lottery what it is today. Because of them, we are well-positioned to continue our mission of responsibly generating revenue for the state, and look to grow our Lottery and sports betting businesses.”

The Connecticut Lottery began its slate of anniversary games this week, with its first-ever $20 price-point Fast Play game “50 Anniversary GOLD,” which has a set top prize of $200,000. A 50th Anniversary scratch ticket family consisting of $1, $2, $5 and $10 games will also be released in the coming weeks.

Connecticut Lottery Corporation Milestones

The Connecticut Lottery Corporation began ticket sales on February 15, 1972, and since then, has contributed more than $10 billion to the state’s general fund. In October 2021, the CLC added online and retail sports betting to its product offerings, through the PlaySugarHouse sportsbook. The Connecticut Lottery now has nine retail sportsbook locations in the state, with an additional six set to open in the future.

In 2022, the Connecticut Lottery will add online draw game sales (iLottery) to its portfolio, the proceeds of which will go on to fund the state’s debt-free college program. The CLC is currently on track this fiscal year to reach $11 billion returned to the state since the Lottery’s inception.

Over the course of 50 years, the Connecticut Lottery has contributed more than $40 million towards funding problem gambling prevention and treatment services, in addition to in-kind PSA campaigns to support the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) and the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling’s (CCPG) efforts around problem gambling awareness. The CLC partners directly with DMHAS and CCPG to employ responsible gambling best practices in all of its product offerings and marketing campaigns and will this year contribute $3.3 million directly to the state’s Chronic Gamblers Fund, overseen by DMHAS.

Other significant moments in Connecticut Lottery history include:

June 1971: To generate revenue for the state, Governor Thomas J. Meskill signs Public Act No. 865 to create the Connecticut State Lottery. In September, a bi-partisan team of commissioners is selected.

February 15, 1972 – The Connecticut Lottery begins its first ticket sales at 3,000 retailer locations state wide, offering one game called “The Lottery.” Tickets cost 50 cents, each. Drawings are held weekly with a top prize of $5,000. Connecticut’s lottery is the fourth state lottery in the nation.

September 9, 1975: “Instant Match,” the first scratch game in CT, goes on sale. Top prize is $10,000. Proceeds from this game are temporarily earmarked by the legislature to support education services in the state.

October 29, 1975 – Louise Torvinen, one of 12 finalists for the big prize, becomes the state’s first lottery millionaire, via an Instant Match 2nd chance drawing.

November 7, 1983 – As an enhancement to the existing lottery system, “Lotto” is born. For just $1 per play, players choose 6 numbers for their chance at winning a minimum jackpot prize of $1 million.

June 30, 1983 – Lottery contributions to state’s General Fund reach $1 billion.

November 1995 – Connecticut joins “Powerball,” a multi-state lottery game with a minimum jackpot of $5 million.

July 1, 1996 – The Connecticut State Lottery becomes a quasi-public agency named the Connecticut Lottery Corporation.

March 29, 2009 – “Lucky-4-Life” drawing game begins, with a top prize of up to $2,000 a week for life.

November 2, 2011 – The largest prize in CT Lottery history – a $254.2 million Powerball jackpot – is claimed by the Putnam Avenue Family Trust.

March 2012 – Six New England states join together to launch a regional version of the Connecticut draw game, “Lucky for Life®.” The regional game offers a top prize of $7,000 per week for life.

April 2016 – The CLC introduces KENO, “ON THE SPOT FUN®” with a chance to win every four minutes, 7 days a week.

October 2, 2019 – The Connecticut Lottery crossed the $10 billion threshold for profits returned to the CT General Fund since the Lottery’s inception in 1972.

November 1, 2019 – Connecticut’s “Lotto!” Jackpot of $25.9 Million, the third-highest jackpot in the game’s history is won.

May 27, 2021 – Governor Ned Lamont signs legislation legalizing online and retail sports wagering in Connecticut, authorizing the Connecticut Lottery to operate online sports wagering and up to 15 retail sports betting locations.

June 30, 2021 – Despite a challenging year following statewide, Covid-19 pandemic-related shutdowns, the Connecticut Lottery sees its best year ever, returning $418 million to the state’s General Fund.

October, 2021 – The Connecticut Lottery Corporation begins offering online sports betting via its PlaySugarHouse sportsbook, in partnership with Rush Street Interactive (RSI). The CLC also launches its retail PlaySugarHouse sportsbook business, with its first location at Sports Haven in New Haven.

Articles by Author: David Ross

David D. Ross edits the Escondido Times-Advocate and Valley Roadrunner newspapers. A freelance journalist for over 40 years, Ross is knowledgeable about San Diego's backcountry and has written on tourism in Julian, Palomar Mountain, San Diego Safari Park—and the area’s casinos. He has a master’s degree in military history from Norwich University.