Thousands of virtual bets started being placed early Tuesday, the first day that online sports wagering and casino games were made available to all eligible adults within Connecticut.
Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, owners of Foxwoods Resort Casino, called it “nothing short of historic” for the state and the tribe, which received its federal recognition 30 years ago this week and has been seeking to expand into online gambling for almost a decade as competition for casino patrons has ramped up throughout the Northeast.
“It really expands the ecosystem of gaming and the combination of in-person and online just extends that experience,” he told reporters during a virtual news conference.
He said the first wager was placed on the Los Angeles Dodgers defeating the Atlanta Braves, followed by thousands of other fans who placed bets on a variety of games.
Besides Foxwoods, which has partnered with operator DraftKings, online sports betting was fully launched by the Mohegan Tribe, owners of Mohegan Sun Casino, and its partner FanDuel, and the Connecticut Lottery Corp. and its partner Rush Street Interactive. Only the two tribes are allowed to offer online casino games.
With Tuesday’s full rollout of online gambling, following a seven-day, limited “soft launch,” Connecticut becomes the seventh state to offer online betting on casino games, ranging from various forms of blackjack to video poker and roulette. More than two dozen states have legalized sports betting, although many only allow in-person bets.
Kevin Hennessy, director of publicity for FanDuel, said things ran smoothly on Tuesday on the Mohegan Sun/FanDuel platform. Like with Foxwoods, the first bet was placed on a Major League Baseball playoff game.
While the specific number of total bets wasn’t available, Hennessy said Connecticut is launching its online offerings at the perfect time to attract bettors, given the large amount of sporting events that are happening. He also said it’s novel for a state to launch sports betting and online casino games at the same time.
Also, even though Connecticut is a small state, Hennessy said it has the benefit of being able to attract players from neighboring states who need to cross the border in order to play, given the cybersecurity technology which can detect where customers are logging into the apps.
“The interesting thing about Connecticut is that you .. border two states that do not have legal sports betting,” he said, referring to New York and Massachusetts. “So that sort of puts you on par with New Jersey, where New Jersey had that for a long time. New Jersey had originally Pennsylvania and New York. And that’s why New Jersey has kind of become almost a Nevada of the East Coast. Connecticut has that same opportunities.”
A spokesperson for the Connecticut Lottery said the first day of full, online sports betting also ran smoothly. Data on the number of bets placed was not yet available.
Tuesday’s launch is the latest development in the multi-step rollout of sports wagering and online casino gambling. Both the tribes, which recently opened temporary sports books at their respective casinos, are planning to open permanent facilities soon. Butler said a ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned in mid-November for the Foxwoods sports book while the Mohegan facility is expected to open this winter.
Meanwhile, the Connecticut Lottery is awaiting final state approvals to begin rolling out in-person sports betting kiosks at existing SportTech venues.
Additionally, more casino games could eventually be added to the existing offerings. The Department of Consumer Protection has so far approved 163 games on the DraftKings app and 130 on the FanDuel app. In many cases, those include multiple variations of the same game, such as blackjack.
Rich Roberts, president of Mohegan Sun Digital, said the casino’s website and iOS and Android apps for Connecticut “will eventually have well over 100 recognizable slot offerings and table game options by the end of the month, and we expect to offer more than 250 by the end of the year.”