Proponents and opponents of the newly expanded game in Connecticut agree that it is worth investigating – right away.
But “a review of the types of gambling activities engaged in by the public and whether to expand, maintain or reduce the amount of legalized gambling permitted in this state,” as a proposed bill states, can it be completed by January 1, 2023?
Michelle Seagull, commissioner of the state Department of Consumer Protection, the agency that will pursue the study, expressed some doubts Thursday during a public hearing conducted online by the Legislature Public Safety Committee. .
Among the many proposals under discussion was Senate Bill 140, which calls for a study of the effect of legalizing gambling.
In written testimony filed ahead of Thursday’s hearing, Seagull said the timeframe specified in the bill’s wording “may not be achievable.” She told committee members that meeting the deadline could result in a study that is “less robust” than people want.
“By the time the money is allocated, the scope is defined, you get bids and make a selection…there might only be a few months left to do the study,” she said. “It won’t be as in-depth as if they were six or seven months old.”
The need for the study crystallized following Connecticut’s legalization of sports betting and online casino gambling, both of which launched in the fall. The Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling reported that it almost immediately experienced a significant increase in calls to its “helpline”.
Connecticut has not conducted a statewide study of the social effects of gambling since 2009, despite mandating that such a study be done at least once every 10 years. Senate Bill 140 would renew the once-a-decade requirement.
The 2009 study, conducted by Spectrum Gaming Group, a New Jersey-based gaming consultant, cost $685,000. No funds for another study have since been allocated.
After submitting written testimony, Diana Goode, the council’s executive director, limited her remarks online, saying the introduction of new forms of gambling in Connecticut called for “a detailed study” of the prevalence of problem gambling. She insisted that the company chosen to conduct the study should be “someone outside the gaming industry – a neutral party”.
In his memoir, Goode highlighted the importance of monitoring the impacts of gambling and collecting data to support “evidence-based mitigation efforts.”
“While the CCPG does not advocate for or against gambling, we believe it is necessary to ensure that the state has a strong safety net to support individuals and families affected by problem gambling and to reduce harm,” Goode wrote.
Senator Tony Hwang, a Fairfield Republican and former Public Safety Committee member who has long opposed gambling expansion, urged that the study be “objective and academic”. Citing the marked increase in gambling across the country in connection with the legalization of sports betting – such as last month’s Super Bowl – Hwang called for funding for the study to be increased to $5 million.
“Since adopting the expansion of online gambling and sports betting, every resident with a mobile phone now carries a mini-casino with them around the clock,” he said in written testimony. . “I’ve heard stories from Connecticut residents who are brave enough to come forward about their gambling issues, and they say the emotional damage caused by this addiction far outweighs the finances.”
Hwang said the public had turned to “distractions” like online gambling and sports betting amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Christopher Davis, head of government relations and responsible gaming for Connecticut Lottery Corp., said the lottery, which operates online and retail sports betting and plans to roll out online lottery ticket sales this fall, supports the bill on the study of games of chance. He said the lottery will provide all the information and data researchers need.
The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Tribes, respective owners of Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun, have also pledged to cooperate fully with a gambling study. Casinos operate on-site sportsbooks offering sports betting as well as online games and online sports betting platforms.