Why can’t we have not-nice things?
As other states jump into sports betting, Connecticut lags.
I’m going offer you a partial explanation, but before I do, I want to say something to all the people who are tapping their feet and glancing at their watches and demanding to know why they can’t bet on Tua Tagovailoa to win the Heisman Trophy. (11-4 odds.) (This is something people are already betting on, even though the college football season hasn’t started.)
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The more available sports betting becomes, the more money most bettors will lose. I mean, it’s set up that way, unless your name is Arnold Rothstein. In fact, all gambling expansions result in more losses for most of the people who play.
It’s possible that the dopamine hit you will get on those occasions when your team covers the spread is actually worth what you will lose on other occasions. That’s between you and your God. But there’s a reason they don’t call it smartamine.
(I know whereof I speak. Every year, I place a well-researched combination of bets — boxed trifectas and stuff like that — that essentially ensures that I will win money on the Kentucky Derby unless one of the horses sits down in the middle of the race and starts eating a tuna fish sandwich. And in all these years, I have won exactly $0.00 And I will be back at the window next year at the local betting parlor which is called, almost mockingly, Winners.)
OK, now come with me through the mists of time to 1990 when many of you were children and many of you were not even born and Ken Dixon was already a columnist.
The only Native American gambling allowed in Connecticut at that time was High Stakes Bingo, which was every bit as glamorous as it sounds.
The Great White Father of Connecticut was Bill O’Neill, and the Great White Father after him was Lowell P. Weicker, Jr. Neither of those GWFs was supportive of legalized casino gambling, but it didn’t matter because the state lost a federal case and had to bow to an existing rule.
The rule said that, if anybody in a state could run a “game of chance,” then Native American tribes could do it too. At the time, it was common for charities to hold “Las Vegas Nights,” with table games such as blackjack. Good enough, said the courts. The tribes can do it too.
When the decision came down, a spokesman for the Mashantucket Pequots said — in what was possibly the greatest understatement of all time — “The tribe would not simply put up a tent and do some games.” Hardly. Instead they built what was, for a time, the biggest casino in the world. So ... not a tent.
But the charities did not have slot machines, so the tribes did not get them either. This was a sore point because people playing video slots will keep feeding money into the machines long after they have lost control of their salivary glands and sphincter muscles.
GWF II (Weicker) had some smart young lawyers on his staff, and they cooked up an idea. What if, they said, we could craft a legal agreement that would make it incredibly hard for anybody else to get into the Connecticut casino business and guarantee the state a large pot of money every year?
The GWF gaped. “We halt the spread of gambling and get money at the same time! Great googly-moogly! I like that!” (Historical dialogue recreated.)
The pact gave the tribes their much coveted video slots, in return for which the state of Connecticut received a cut of the slot revenues. (The state’s cut would otherwise have been zero.) At its peak — roughly 12 years ago — that cut amounted to $430 million, courtesy of drool-flecked slot zombies who had made in their pants.
The work “peak” is kind of a tip-off. The betting handle for slots at the two tribal casinos has gone down, down, down. This year it was $255 million. It’s never going back up. Gambling used to be the goose that laid the golden eggs. Now it’s a goose in menopause.
Oh! I forgot to tell you the other thing about the pact. It had sort of fairy tale curse in it. It said the state must never, ever, ever allow another entity to do casino gambling here, and if they ever do, no more slot revenues for you!
At the time, I thought it was the smartest thing I had ever seen a governor do, and maybe it was. But decades later, we can see complications. For example, the tribes regard sports betting as a type of casino gambling which means, as far as they’re concerned, they have exclusive rights to run it. This may occasion lawsuits from gaming companies who want in.
New casinos in East Windsor or Bridgeport or inside the Old State House in Hartford (a secret plan which only I know about) would be tribal by default. True, the entire, glorious history of the Greatest Country in the World is one long procession of lies and broken promises by white leaders to indigenous peoples, but, I dunno, it just doesn’t seem as cool these days.
Meanwhile, MGM Resorts International, which is not technically a Native American tribe but is somehow connected to the company that made “Ambush” in which Robert Taylor has to rescue a girl named Mary from an Apache named Diablito, has made it clear that it will file lawsuits to block essentially any plan that will give the tribes expanded gaming opportunities.
Lawsuits use up a lot of time, time that you could have spent losing money on stupid sports bets on teams with offensive Native American names and mascots! It’s so unfair!
Anyway, that whole story is unique to Connecticut, and it helps explain why we are uniquely stalemated now.
That’s all, I guess. Except: I got 50 bucks that says Jalen Hurts wins the Heisman. Come on! The dude’s name is Hurts!