Hartford – In the long debate in Connecticut on the expansion of the gambling game, theirs is the voice that tends to be stifled: the adversaries.
But late Tuesday morning, before any of those who were waving the heavy battalion spoke at a public hearing on sports betting accounts and other game-related proposals, a spokesperson for groups and organizations mostly of faith had the word .
Having railed against the casino's proposals in a Public Safety and Security Committee two weeks earlier, Michele Mudrick, a Connecticut conference lobbyist, United Church of Christ and executive director of Coalition Against Casino Expansion in Connecticut, was well known to the players.
"How much do you have in terms of operating budget?" Representative Tony Hwang, a member of the Fairfield Republican committee, asked Mudrick.
"We have $ 800 in the bank … not the thousands or millions of MGMs or tribes," he replied.
In fact, MGM Resorts International and the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes spent millions of dollars lobbying lawmakers over the past few years while pursuing competing casino proposals and, during the current legislative session, sports betting.
As a result, Mudrick said: "They are receiving all the press".
He then launched a testimony in favor of invoices that required separate studies on online games and the legal effects of gambling on the inhabitants of the state. He noted that the last state study on the social impacts of gambling was released in 2009 and that the consultancy company that conducted it – the Spectrum Gaming Group – indicated that it could respond if the state seeks offers for a new study.
Spectrum has been consulting for the casino-owning tribes, Mudrick said, and is affiliated with Spectrum Gaming Capital, which finances the casinos.
"They are an integral part of the casino industry and do not qualify as independent experts," he said.
Mudrick said the groups he represents are against a bill that would set up a gaming commission because they believe it would put too much power in the hands of a few people, denying the public a voice.
Witnessing also Tuesday was Diana Goode, executive director of the Connecticut Council on the problem of gambling, which supports the proposed gambling studies and the increase in funding for the treatment of compulsive gambling . He said that about 35,000 adults in Connecticut meet the criteria for problem gambling disorder and that another 287,000 are at risk of developing a problem in their lifetime.
The council recommends that from 1 to 3% of the revenue the state receives from any legal gambling expansion, including sports betting, online bets and additional casinos, is dedicated to d & # gaming services 39; problematic hazard. These funds, Goode said, should be dedicated to the Chronic Gamblers Account for treatment and rehabilitation and made available to state health agencies and private non-profit organizations.
Currently, Connecticut Lottery Corp. contributes $ 2.3 million annually to the account.
Greg Smith, president and chief executive officer of the lottery, testified in support of invoices that legalize sports betting and online sale of draw lottery games, including Powerball, Mega Millions, Keno, Lotto and daily number games.
"From the month we start selling online, it will only take a few years before the additional annual proceeds amount to $ 20 million or more," Smith said. "Our five-year projections amount to over $ 50 million in new revenue from the General Fund."
The sports betting law heard Tuesday that it would allow the tribes to offer sports bets at Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun and the lottery and Sportech Venues, the state's off-track betting operator, to offer it too.
All this would, however, be subordinated to the outcome of the negotiations between Governor Ned Lamont and the tribes, who claimed that their gambling agreements with the state guarantee them the exclusive right to provide sports bets in Connecticut.
Senator Cathy Osten, a Sprague Democrat and vice president of the public safety committee, said she was unaware of the status of any talks between the governor and the tribes. He said he was not a supporter of the bills that were looking for gambling studies or a gaming commission.
The public safety committee is scheduled to meet on March 19, at which time it could decide which invoices will go ahead.