Connecticut Poker Laws
The state law does not specify whether online poker is legal or illegal in Connecticut, but the state’s website does address this, noting that online gambling of any kind is illegal under the state code.
Latest Developments Regarding Online Poker in Connecticut
State Summary: Connecticut 2018
Members of the Connecticut State Legislature introduced a bill that would legalize sports betting in the state’s land-based casinos. The bill anticipates a ruling by the US Supreme Court on New Jersey’s challenge of a federal sports betting ban which applies to 46 US states. The key supporters of the sportsbook bill included State House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz (D-Berlin), State House Majority Leader Matt Ritter (D-Hartford), and State Rep. Joe Verrengia (D-West Hartford).
House Majority Leader Matt Ritter (D) said of the sports betting bill,
“Connecticut should be ready to act as soon as the Supreme Court decision is handed down. Based on the oral arguments before the court late last year, it seems entirely possible that the federal ban on sports betting will be overturned, and we want to be competitive with other states.”
On February 5, 2018, Foxwoods entered an interactive gaming technology partnership with Pariplay. The new interactive gaming platform allows players to compete in their favorite games digitally when on the Foxwoods property, as they can download the program to their mobile devices and wager in real-money games.
Though this does not currently include, poker, a Foxwoods representative stated that the platform is “to lay the groundwork for our entry into the USA’s iGaming market.”
Clearly, the tribes are ready to join any online poker and gambling regime that the state may approve. However, it is unclear if legislators are ready to put forth a bill and consider it yet. There may be a renewed interest in online gaming, considering New Jersey is profiting so well from its industry and Pennsylvania just legalized it in 2017 and will launch some sites this year. Delaware offers legalized online gambling as well, and other neighboring states like New York and Massachusetts are currently considering online poker measures.
In March 2018, demolition work began on the East Windsor casino, despite no federal approval for the casino yet. The Mashantucket Pequot (Foxwoods) Tribe and the Mohegan Tribe plan to build the satellite casino in the Hartford area, hoping to keep Hartford-area gamblers from crossing out of state to play at the upcoming MGM Springfield casino.
In the past several years, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun have both used their state gambling compacts to launch free-play online gaming sites. While they cannot offer real-money play unless specifically authorized by a new compact and permission under state law, both tribes operate the play-money sites in connection with their land-based casino properties.
In addition, leaders of both tribes have indicated their openness to real-money online poker. Frank Pracukowski of Foxwoods’ interactive gaming division even noted in 2015 that state officials have noted they are ready to work with tribes when everyone is on board. Charles Bunnell of the Mohegans expressed a willingness to work with lawmakers as far back as 2012.
State Summary: Connecticut 2017
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy signed a bill that approved a casino for East Windsor, a suburb of Hartford. The East Windsor Casino would have 2,000 slot machines and 50 to 150 table games. Its competitor 30 miles down the road, the MGM Springfield, will have 3,000 slots and 100 table games. The casino is to be owned and operated in a joint venture between the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe (owner of Foxwoods Casino) and the Mohegan Tribe (owner of the Mohegan Sun).
The US Department of the Interior did not approve or reject the casino within 45 of the law being passed, so Connecticut’s lawyers claim the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Indian Affairs waived their right to approve or reject the casino. To press that claim, the State of Connecticut, Mohegan Tribe, and Mashantucket Pequot Tribe filed a lawsuit against the US Interior Department.
In the summer of 2017, MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren held a press conference to announce the company’s plans to build a Bridgeport Casino. While it seemed like a PR move, for the first time, state politicians who represented the Bridgeport area began to make noise about a full licensing process. In September 2017, MGM Resorts (while pledging to contribute to the Pequot Fund) continued to make a public plea for a hearing on a Bridgeport casino. Uri Clinton, a spokesman for MGM Resorts, said in a press release,
“We believe this new law violates both the state and United States Constitutions, and we will continue to argue our case vigorously in court.”
In the final days of 2017, MGM Resorts International filed a motion to be included in the lawsuit. MGM Resorts wants to build a casino in Bridgeport and has been pursuing such a casino through legal filings for years.
State Summary: Connecticut 2016
U.S. District Judge Alvin W. Thompson rejected MGM Resorts’ lawsuit, which was filed against the Hartford-area casino (eventually planned for East Windsor). A major premise of the suit was the idea that MGM Resorts International had wanted to build a casino in Bridgeport, but the plan was rejected out of hand. Judge Thompson rejected that motion, while most Connecticut officials dismissed the lawsuit as frivolous. When the suit was filed, Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen called the MGM Bridgeport casino “a bluff”.
In February 2016, Senate Bill 192 was introduced to the Connecticut’s State Legislature. S 192 was a proposal to legalize daily fantasy sports. The bill passed the Connecticut Senate on April 7 but failed to pass the Connecticut General Assembly on April 28. Local media reports suggested that the local tribal gaming groups, the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes, had opposed legalized DFS gaming in the state.
Backed by MGM Resorts’ money, Schaghticoke Indian Tribe Chief Richard Velky in March 2016 filed a lawsuit against Connecticut, challenging the state’s right to give a casino license to Mohegan Sun/Foxwoods without a licensing process. Velky said the casino licensing process was unconstitutional, because it excluded other applicants, such as his tribe, which is based in Kent. Velky said of the lawsuit,
“Without any competitive bidding or gaming study, Connecticut shut out the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation and awarded to one pair of native American tribes the exclusive ability to develop a highly valuable commercial enterprise.”
State Summary: Connecticut 2015
Senate Bill 192 was introduced to the Connecticut state legislature that would legalize a Hartford-area mini-casino or slots parlor. At the time, a number of cities were proposed locations of the satellite casino: Windsor Locks, East Windsor, or East Hartford. The casino would be jointly owned by the Mohegan Tribe and Mashantucket Pequot (Foxwoods) Tribe, longtime tribal casino rivals in the state.
In September 2015, MGM Resorts filed a lawsuit to prevent a third casino being built by the tribes which own the Mohegan Sun/Foxwoods casinos. The Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot Tribes proposed a joint venture to build a satellite casino in the Windsor area to counter MGM Resorts’ $900 million casino resort in Western Massachusetts: The MGM Springfield. MGM Resorts’ lawsuit claims a move to approve a casino without a full licensing process is illegal.
Connecticut Assistant Attorney General Robert Deichert filed a motion in US District Judge Alvin Thompson’s court, calling for the judge to throw out the MGM lawsuit. Defending his state’s gaming laws, Robert Deichert wrote,
“Put simply, [the gaming act] has no impact on MGM’s ability to take whatever steps it chooses to take toward developing a casino in Connecticut.”
State Summary: Connecticut 2014
Foxwoods Casino and Mohegan Sun, the state’s two land-based casinos, each launched online casino portals. These are social gaming sites and not real money gambling sites. Mohegan Sun’s Play4Fun Casino app is available on Google Play for Android smartphone and tablet computer users and the iTunes App Store for iPad and iPhone users. Foxwoods Slots is a similar gaming site, which offers for-fun slots gaming feature top game designers like IGT, Bally Technologies, and Aristocrat. The idea of the new gaming sites was to create brand recognition with online game enthusiasts, in case online casino gaming is ever legal in Connecticut. The sites help build a database of interested players, while also letting gaming site URLs age online for search engine optimization purposes.
In a May 2014 implementer bill, the Connecticut General Assembly banned Internet sweepstakes cafes. Sweepstakes cafes or cyber-cafes were a growing phenomenon in the United States at the time, though many lawmakers argued they were illegal gambling. An Internet sweepstakes cafe often would appear in a local strip mall, looking much like a non-gaming Internet cafe. Software is installed on desktop computers that allow customers to play slot machine-style games for real money. The place is hard to spot by law enforcement, because it looks like any other business.
At the time of the 2014 ban on Connecticut Internet sweepstakes cafes, the Hartford Courant cited a 2011 report by Bloomberg Businessweek which said 5,000 sweepstakes cafes exist nationwide. These businesses raked in an estimated $10 billion to $15 billion a year, but had been challenged in California, Florida, Indiana, and over a dozen other states at the time.
State Summary: Connecticut 2013
In December 2012, the State of Connecticut approved online betting for horse racing. The betting could take place through mywinners.com. Sportech Inc., which handled off-track betting at the state’s 15 off-track betting facilities and two land-based casinos, Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Casino, was contracted to handle the setup. By November 2013, online horse betting was launched by Sportech and MyWinners.
In July 2013, the Connecticut State Legislature discussed legal online casinos and poker sites for the first time since the US Department of Justice had said in late-2011 such gaming was legal under the UIGEA. While New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware approved online gambling in 2013, Connecticut’s lawmakers chose to maintain a ban on such gaming. Nevertheless, Foxwoods Casino and Mohegan Sun said they would like to launch online betting sites if they ever became legal. Months later, they would launch free gaming sites online.
Is Any Gambling Legal in Connecticut?
Yes. Bingo was the first form of gambling to be legalized in 1939, though it was only allowed for non-profit organizations at the time. Raffles were made available to charities in 1955, and the state lottery was launched in 1971. Other forms of gambling legalized since then include jai alai, off-track betting, and bingo was opened for everyone. Horse racing is also legal but there are no open tracks in the state.
The Indian Regulatory Gaming Act of 1988 allowed Native American tribes to form compacts with state governments to open and operate casinos on their reservations. The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe did just that and was the first to open its new business in 1992, the Foxwoods Resort Casino. Decades later, Foxwoods expanded with the opening of a new casino in partnership with MGM Grand. The Mohegan Tribe signed its state compact after Mashantucket and opened its Mohegan Sun casino in 1996.
The three tribal-operated casinos are allowed to offer every type of gambling, from poker to table games, slot machines and video poker, essentially every game of chance.
Connecticut Laws Pertinent to Online Poker
Gambling is addressed in Chapter 946 of the Connecticut Code, which is entitled “Offenses Against Public Policy.” Gambling is then categorized in sections alongside impersonation of policemen, unlawful payment of naturalization fees, and fortune telling and other fraudulent practices.
Gambling is defined as
“risking any money, credit, deposit or other thing of value for gain contingent in whole or in part upon lot, chance or the operation of a gambling device, including the playing of a casino gambling game such as blackjack, poker, craps, roulette or a slot machine, but does not include: Legal contests of skill, speed, strength or endurance in which awards are made only to entrants or the owners of entries.”
This absolutely classifies poker as a game of chance.
There is a note that several statutes have since redefined certain forms of gambling to exclude lotteries. It also nots that the reference to poker, blackjack, craps, roulette, and slot machines were added after the original law was written.
Further, the criminal designations of gambling are specified as:
“Any person who engages in gambling, or solicits or induces another to engage in gambling, or is present when another person or persons are engaged in gambling, shall be guilty of a class B misdemeanor; provided natural persons shall be exempt from prosecution and punishment under this subsection for any game, wager or transaction which is incidental to a bona fide social relationship, is participated in by natural persons only and in which no person is participating, directly or indirectly, in professional gambling; and any person who engages in professional gambling shall be guilty of a class A misdemeanor.”
If poker is classified as illegal gambling, this statute implies that anyone engaging in it outside of casinos wherein the games are specifically legal is guilty of a misdemeanor crime.
The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection page of its website, however, does address other forms of poker in its “Frequently Asked Questions” section.
First, it notes that poker games or tournaments in bars is illegal in the state if players receive “anything from the game.”
Second, it addresses this question: Is internet gambling legal in Connecticut? The answer is very specific:
- “The State of Connecticut and the Department of Consumer Protection do not authorize, license, permit, or regulate in any manner any internet gambling in any form.”
- Under General Statutes of Connecticut Section 53-278a(2) any gambling activity in Connecticut is illegal unless specifically authorized by law.”
- “Neither the state legislature nor any state agency has approved any form of gambling on the internet.”
- “Even if a gambling website is legal in another jurisdiction, such as a foreign country or another state, it is illegal to use that site to gambling from within Connecticut.”
Players accessing online poker sites from Connecticut should be aware of these statements provided on an official website of the state.
Disclaimer: This is not written by an attorney and is not or should not be construed as legal advice. Please consult an attorney for help interpreting these laws as they pertain to any given situation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Do people in Connecticut still play online poker?
Answer: Some players do take the risk, but the state has left little room for any interpretation of its laws other than that online poker is not legal at this time. Connecticut has made clear that any online poker is illegal unless and until lawmakers change it.
Question: Under what circumstances would Connecticut consider an online poker bill?
Answer: It seems that representatives from the Mohegan and Foxwoods tribes would have to contact legislators and express their sincere interest in seeing online gambling legalized. That would include online poker and casino games, as the latter is where the bulk of the revenue will be found. Lawmakers could take it up on their own, but the push would be more effective if it started with tribal leaders to show that there is collective support for online gambling.
Question: Do offshore internet poker sites offer poker to players in Connecticut?
Answer: Yes. There are several sites, which are listed on this page, that do open their virtual doors to players in Connecticut. As of the beginning of 2018, none of these sites has chosen to block anyone in Connecticut.
Connecticut Gaming Resources