In this series, we look at six states considered the most likely to offer regulated, legal online poker within the next year. For the second installment, we focus on Connecticut — a state that could see its first online poker operators go live in 2023 if some changes are made to the state’s gaming laws. This article was first published on US Gaming Review, and has been republished on pokerfuse.
With real money online poker in the US currently legal and operating in five US states — Delaware, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania — many fans of online poker wonder: Which state will be sixth?
In the first part of this series, pokerfuse looked at West Virginia, and the remaining steps there before real money online poker could go live. The state has passed online poker regulation, and has stated that it is keen to join the multi-state igaming agreement if an operator requests it.
Connecticut could also be next in line. Like WV, Connecticut already has regulated online poker. However, for the first CT online poker sites to launch, further help from state lawmakers and interest from operators is required.
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Connecticut Has Several Advantages
At first blush, it would appear that launching online poker in Connecticut should be an easy lift.
With 3.6 million residents, the state ranks 10th in terms of population. It has also been blessed by geography — it borders more populous Massachusetts and New York.
The state also has two large tribal casinos — Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun. Both properties are among the largest casinos in the US and the world.
Connecticut is similar to West Virginia, the first state examined by this series, in that online poker is legal in both jurisdictions yet there are no operators offering it.
Some Changes Will Be Needed
But there are some big differences between Connecticut and West Virginia.
For starters, Connecticut’s gaming laws currently do not allow shared liquidity, which would preclude it from signing the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA) — an interstate online poker compact considered imperative to launching poker in any US jurisdiction.
In short, without membership in MSIGA, online poker in Connecticut is a non-starter.
A second issue is that while the state allowed the tribal casinos to partner with online operators, it only allowed “one skin for sports wagering and online casino,” according to a spokeswoman for the regulator, the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection (CDCP).
Specifically, the state issued master wagering licenses to the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and the Mohegan Tribe, which respectively own and operate Foxwoods Resort and Mohegan Sun. Connecticut’s gaming law is similar to other states in that it lumps online poker in with online casino gaming.
Perhaps because it was more interested in making a splash in online sports betting rather than online casino or poker, Foxwoods entered into a partnership with DraftKings, while Mohegan Sun signed a deal with FanDuel. Neither operator has an online poker platform — and neither has expressed an interest in launching one.
Thirdly, it remains unclear precisely how the CDCP defines “skin” and “operator.” Last April, agency spokeswoman Kaitlyn Krasselt said “the law does not allow multiple operators to be associated with a license.”
That would seem to rule out the idea that FanDuel, a Flutter brand, could somehow share its license with another Flutter brand that offers online poker, such as PokerStars. It’s likely that in the CDCP’s eyes, online poker must come via DraftKings or FanDuel.
Assuming Connecticut lawmakers amend the state’s gaming laws to allow shared liquidity, there are three scenarios where online poker could come to the Nutmeg State:
- Either operator could potentially follow the example of Rush Street Interactive (RSI) and acquire an online poker platform, much like RSI did last March when it acquired Run It Once Poker (RIO).
- FanDuel or DraftKings could enter into a partnership with a third-party supplier for online poker software and link it to their existing platforms. Under that scenario, customers could see “DraftKings Poker, Powered by [Third Party],” or something similar.
- In the case of FanDuel, parent company Flutter could license one of its online poker platforms (e.g., PokerStars, Sky Poker, Adjarabet) to FanDuel, creating an offering along the lines of “FanDuel Poker, Powered by PokerStars.”
There was speculation in April that Flutter was working to set up the third scenario in Ontario, where it formed an iGaming partnership with Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE). The deal designates FanDuel as the official sports betting partner for MLSE, while PokerStars would serve as its official iGaming partner.
But to date, there doesn’t appear to be a direct link between FanDuel Ontario and PokerStars Ontario.
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Next Steps Involve State Lawmakers
Under the current circumstances, lawmakers in the Connecticut General Assembly would need to amend the state’s gaming laws for online poker to move forward. The legislature will convene its regular session for 2023 on January 4. Its term ends on June 7.
Lawmakers would need to authorize shared liquidity in order for online poker to get off the ground. They would also need to clarify that master wagering licensees (the tribes) could either have different operators for each vertical or that a brand like FanDuel could step aside and let another brand (such as PokerStars) under the same parent company (Flutter) handle a separate vertical, in this case online poker.
It’s unclear if lawmakers are willing to make changes to the state’s gaming laws, considering its markets for online casino gaming and sports betting have only been live for one year.
Potential Online Poker Operators in CT
|Operator||Likely to Launch Poker?||Land-Based Casino Partner|
|DraftKings||Maybe||Foxwoods Resort Casino|
|FanDuel||Maybe||Mohegan Sun Casino|