An Overview of the Gambling Laws in the State Of Connecticut
Gambling in Connecticut is linked to the famous Tribal casinos which are among the biggest hotel and casino resorts in the World. Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun are destinations for thousands of gambling fans on the East Coast. Outside of these super-casinos, this State is reasonably conservative – having a general gambling law which bans almost everything. There are some quirky exceptions including Duck racing, small stakes bingo games and Jai-Alai betting. This article takes you through all the information you need to know on the Connecticut Gambling laws.
First up below, you will find a quick-fire history of gambling in Connecticut – including the major dates and current status. After this there is a game-by-game guide that shows you what is legal and what is not. Next you can find a timeline and key information from the Statute books – then a summary and look to the future.
Connecticut does not have a long history of gambling, this was a conservative State right from the get-go. In fact, without the tribal land developments there would be very little gambling at all in this State.
Before the introduction of a State lottery in 1983, all that was available was limited Pari-Mutuel betting on horses and dogs, plus carve outs for skill-games including Jai-Alai. Charity gambling was allowed, and this included Duck and Frog racing in addition to the usual bingo and raffles. In a special carve-out for Connecticut’s seniors, Bingo is allowed for stakes under $1 as long as prizes are under $5.
In 1986, Foxwoods, on the Mashantucket Pequot Indian Reservation, got started with a bingo-hall. This land is self-governing, and thus exempt from the wider state laws. Today’s resort started to take shape in 1992, when table games were introduced – with slots following in 1993. Foxwoods are now internationally known and one of the biggest casino resorts on the planet. They have a huge poker room, and attract the best players to their world-class tournaments – including the World Poker Tour and other events.
Mohegan Sun is the other major tribal casino in Connecticut. This started later than Foxwoods, only opening for business in 1996 for the first time. This casino has made up for lost time during the intervening years – and has itself become a mega-casino complex offering shows, restaurants and hotels alongside the tables.
Online gambling is not explicitly banned in this State. The authorities there take the (common) stance that this is already covered by the broad definition of games of chance on their Statute books. In 2012, Governor Dan Malloy suggested that regulation for online poker was ‘inevitable’ (while expressing his own reservations). Mohegan Sun already have an internet poker site, though this only offers free games at the moment.
Casino Games: Yes, there are two tribal casinos which make Connecticut a major east coast gambling destination. These are the famous Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun resorts. Outside of these tribal casinos, the games are not legal.
Online Casinos: No, this is covered by this State’s general rules on what constitutes gambling and the fact that everything not specifically licensed is not legal by default.
Live Poker: Yes, the tribal casinos are host to some of the biggest and most prestigious poker tournaments around – including World Poker Tour events. Home-games are also legal, though the definition is somewhat stricter than in other states. In addition to the common ‘nobody profits’ rule the participants in the game must have a relationship outside of poker.
Online Poker: No, currently there are only free to play games via the Mohegan Sun website. The Governor of Connecticut, Dan Malloy, said in 2012 that he felt legislation for online poker was inevitable (in the context of other States legalizing this). He also added that he would not personally help this process happen. Foxwoods owners are on the record as being keen to move the process of online poker legislation forward.
Sports Betting: Residents can only bet on-track and at designated simulcast venues on Greyhounds and Horses. This is via pooled or Pari-Mutuel betting terminals. There are some quirks in the Connecticut laws which make betting on Duck and Frog races legal for charity. You can also bet on Jai-Alai – which involves catching a ball in a special glove on a 3-walled court.
Lottery Betting: Yes, there is a State lottery and residents have access to national games like the Powerball.
Bingo Games: Yes, unusually, there are legal bingo games outside of charity games in this State. These are aimed at the elderly residents and involve bingo with prizes of $5 or under which cost $1 or less to enter. There is also provision for charity bingo games and raffles.
Unlike some States there is no timeline of drastic changes or amendments to the laws governing gambling. With the possible agreement that Tribal lands were exempted from the main State laws, Connecticut have steadfastly stuck to the line that ‘it is all illegal unless we explicitly say otherwise’.
Here is the definition of gambling from section 53-278a of the State code:
While there is a carve-out for games of skill, gambling records and the transmission of gambling information are strictly controlled. The information section does not mention online gambling, though it is interpreted as covering this:
Below I have covered other significant landmarks in the evolution of gambling in Connecticut:
1983: Connecticut lottery begins
1986: Foxwoods first created as a Bingo room, adding casino table games in 1992 and slots in 1993. This would go on to become the World’s 2nd largest casino resort – generating significant revenues and employing 1000’s of people.
1996: Mohegan Sun Opens – going on to become another giant casino resort.
2008: MGM Grand Expansion at Foxwoods, this would last until 2013, when the partnership ended.
2012: Governor Dan Mallory remarks that the regulation of online poker in Connecticut is inevitable, following other States regulating this. He did go on to distance himself from the desire to help with any process.
Like many States, Connecticut has made their definition of gambling broad enough to include everything – and then created carve-outs for individual games or groups. I’m not sure how active the Jai-Alai betting market is, however it is almost certain that the tribal casinos of Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun are bigger.
Governor Malloy got some people excited with his comments about online poker regulation. While this is welcome news, there is a long way to go before any bill becomes a reality – particularly with this State’s record of caution. With only 3.5 million residents, I would expect Connecticut to need to join a multi-state liquidity sharing deal to make online poker a reality. In the meantime, you can feel free to have a bet on your local duck race.
Judicial Branch Library – Contains links to many statutes and related documents
Charity legislation (covers a lot of bingo)
Summary of the Main Statutes
Online Gambling ‘Inevitable’