Gambling in Connecticut has been dominated by a pair of tribal casinos with all the luxury of the best Vegas establishments. Meanwhile, the Nutmeg State is all in with online gambling sites, putting bettors in virtual casinos and sportsbooks to enhance their experience.
These two Tribal casinos have been significant tourist destinations since their appearance in the 1990s. With the resorts in place, the state hasn’t found any reason to include legal, private casinos as part of the landscape, and that’s unlikely to change.
Gambling in Connecticut – Lottery, Jai Alai Greyhound Racing & OTB
On February 15, 1972, Gambling in Connecticut started with the Connecticut State Lottery with ticket sales at 3,000 retailer locations statewide. The one game offered was called “The Lottery.” Tickets cost 50 cents each.
Here’s a Timeline of the Connecticut State Lottery:
- 1975 – September 9, 1975: “Instant Match,” the first scratch game in CT, goes on sale.
- 1991: Lottery contributions to the state’s General Fund top the $2 billion mark.
- September 2010: Instant ticket vending machines are installed in select Lottery retailer locations, increasing player convenience and helping to reduce lines at the registers.
- August 2011: The CT Lottery transitions to a mobile-friendly website
- October 2014: The CT Lottery wins an award for best Responsible Gambling Communications in the Electronic Category for Retailer Training by the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries.
- February 2, 2016: The Connecticut Lottery Corporation agreed with the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) for the right to use “GameSense,” BCLC’s proprietary, award-winning responsible gaming education program.
- October 19, 2021: CT Lottery and its partner Rush Street Interactive launch the PlaySugarHouse.com online sportsbook.
- 2023: Rush Street Interactive pulls out of partnership with Lottery. Finding third online sportbook in process
Jai Alai, OTB & Greyhound Racing
By the summer of 1976, two large jai alai frontons opened in Hartford and Bridgeport and quickly emerged as the premier legal gambling sites in the state. Then, in 1977, a third jai alai fronton opened in Milford.
Throughout its tenure in Connecticut, suspicions and assertions of corruption and match-fixing hung over the state’s jai alai industry. The culmination of such claims came with the 1977 conviction of numerous members of the “Miami Syndicate” gambling ring, who allegedly fixed up to 253 matches at the Milford location.
As individual states began to legalize casino gambling and Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun opened, the interest in jai alai gradually waned. In the spring of 1995, Bridgeport’s fronton closed its doors and built a dog track. Five months later, the popular Hartford location closed. Finally, the Milford fronton outlasted its counterparts by six years, closing in December 2001.
Plainfield Greyhound Park, the state’s first track, opened in 1976, and Shoreline Star Greyhound Park, a former jai alai fronton, (see above) was converted into a racing facility in 1995. However, by 2005, live racing had ended at both facilities after years of declining attendance and diminished wagering.
Off-Track Betting (OTB)
No horse racing tracks operate Gambling in Connecticut, but off-track wagering is legal in the state on horse racing, dog racing, and jai alai. Connecticut has numerous OTB locations including:
- New Haven Off Track Betting Bureau – 600 Long Wharf Drive New Haven, CT
- Bradley Teletheater Off Track Betting – 11 Schoephoester Road, Windsor Locks, CT
- Manchester Off Track Betting Bureau – 103 Tolland Turnpike, Manchester, CT
- Bridgeport Off Track Betting Bureau – 255 Kossuth Street, Bridgeport, CT
- East Haven Off Track Betting Bureau – 65 Frontage Road, East Haven, CT
- Willimantic Off Track Betting Bureau – 100 Main Street, Willimantic, CT
Tribal Casinos Emerge and Dominate
Two of the largest casinos/resorts in the country reside in CT. Furthermore, Gambling in Connecticut offers everything Las Vegas resorts offer only ten minutes away from each other.
The Mashantucket Pequot & Mohegan tribes and the State of Connecticut have a compact that requires 25% of all slot revenue. Here’s how it all came to be:
Gambling in Connecticut – Bingo Started It All
- 1986 – The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, one of two federally recognized Native American tribes in the state, opened a bingo parlor. It was declared legal when a court agreed that the parlor could operate on sovereign Native American land.
- 1992 – Foxwoods opens
- The first New England Casino, Foxwoods, opened. Despite initial plans to close the casino at 2 AM, gamblers just kept staying and gambling.
- In 1992, the Foxwoods added table games,
- 1993 –
- Foxwoods adds Slot machines.
- The Grand Cedar Hotel was built and opened.
RELATED POST – How Did Foxwoods Get So Big?
The Beginning of Connecticut Casino Dominance
- 1996 – The Mohegan Tribe opened the second New England casino in Uncasville, CT. Casino officials estimated some 40,000 had passed through on the first day.
- 1997 – Foxwoods opens Grand Pequot Tower.
- 1998 – Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center opens with a 308,000-square-foot complex consisting of permanent exhibits, the Mashantucket Gallery for temporary exhibits, classrooms, a 320-seat auditorium, a restaurant, a museum shop, and administrative offices.
- 2001 – Mohegan Sun completes Mohegan Sun Arena as part of “Project Sunburst,” a 10,000-seat multi-purpose arena. It was a five million-square-foot expansion.
- It included a 34-story, 1,200-room luxury hotel, meeting and function space including the northeast’s largest ballroom, retail shopping, and nine new restaurants. In addition, Mohegan Sun added a 300-seat cabaret, a world-class spa, a business center, an indoor pool, and an outdoor terrace.
- 2007 to 2011 – Connecticut’s casino revenue begins to drop by 20%,
- 2008 – Foxwoods announced they would lease the MGM Grand brand name for the new building project. MGM Mirage would be a partner in the expansion project.
After the Recession
- 2013 – MGM pulls out of its Foxwoods partnership.
- 2015 – Foxwoods opens Tanger Outlet Mall between the two hotel towers with 85 stores.
- 2016 – The Earth Tower officially opened on November 18, 2016. It is the second hotel option at Mohegan Sun.
- 2018 – Mohegan Sun opens Earth Expo Center. It has an innovative design with 125,000 square feet of contiguous, column-free exhibit space. In addition to a 20,000-square-foot ballroom, it boasts 15 additional meeting rooms and pre-function areas for a total of 175,000 square feet.
- 2021 – A massive bill allows both sports betting and online casino gambling to be state-sanctioned for the first time.
The first New England Casino, Foxwoods Resort Casino, is expanding again. It was the world’s largest casino at its peak, with 6,300 slot machines and ten thousand employees. In 2012, if you included everything — hotel space, bars, restaurants, theaters and ballrooms, spa, bowling alley — Foxwoods measured about 6.7 million square feet, more than the Pentagon!
In the post-pandemic era, Foxwoods is expanding, renovating, and looking for new geographic for its brand. Recently, it extended its brand to Puerto Rico.
In addition, Foxwoods is changing things around and expanding by adding the Great Wolf Lodge in 2024 and redesigning a new Bingo Hall. Foxwoods seems ready to take on the future with additional family attractions and a new “Rainmaker Expo Center” that will offer 75,000 square feet of space for corporate meetings, trade shows, and sporting events.
Related Post – How Did Foxwoods Get So Big?
Foxwoods & Mohegan Sun Gallery
The Mohegan tribe and Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment (MGE) have continued to extend their name across the country and the globe. In 2022, “Neon Uncasville” marked its 25th anniversary.
Once, Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods had the most slot machines and table games of any casino, averaging around 6400 slots and over 300 tables. After the recession, competition, and the pandemic, those numbers have diminished significantly to almost half.
The Sun has the best entertainment venues and lounges in New England. The Mohegan Sun Arena is unlike any other on the East Coast. The Arena at Mohegan Sun helped double the visitation to the property in the first year. Five thousand retractable seats can be configured into five standard sports configurations – basketball, boxing, bowling, rodeo, table tennis, and professional indoor lacrosse. Besides its many concerts, it has served as home to professional arena football, indoor lacrosse, and The WNBA’s CT Sun
Mohegan Sun Arena is now ranked consistently among the top venues in the world, according to Billboard Magazine, Pollstar, and Venues Today. It won “Casino of The Year” at the Country Music Awards in 2008 & 2010, and in 2013, was voted “Arena Of The Year” at the G2E Global Gaming Conference in Las Vegas. Also in 2013, Mohegan Sun won “Casino of The Year” in 2 categories at the Academy of Country Music Awards.
MGE has concentrated on expanding its brand globally. Las Vegas, South Korea, and Canada. Besides Las Vegas, its American portfolio includes Resorts Atlantic City, Mohegan Sun, Pocono (PA), and ilani Resort in Washington State.
Related Post – 25 Years Of Growth at Mohegan Sun
Online Gaming and Sportsbetting
The agreement reached in March of 2021 amended the state pact that gave Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino exclusive gambling rights in Connecticut for almost thirty years. It will also allow the Connecticut Lottery to run sports betting only in cooperation with tribal entities. Connecticut doesn’t offer many online gaming vendors for a small state, but it certainly has quality, with three sportsbooks at the top of the industry.
Bettors have three options for selecting an online sportsbook in CT
- DraftKings Sportsbook – One of the top online sportsbooks in the US, DraftKings Sportsbook combines a sleek app and top-of-the-line live betting experience. The Boston-based company offers some of the consistently best odds and betting options, as well as betting pools that let you create private contests to play with friends and family.
- FanDuel Sportsbook – FanDuel Sportsbook is a market leader in a number of US states and offers a user-friendly app as well as various bonuses. Additionally, bettors can place same-game parlays that include multiple player props for the same event, a feature not available at every book.
- PlaySugarHouse Sportsbook – SugarHouse, Owned by Rush Street Interactive partnered with the Connecticut Lottery to be the third online sportsbook, but after RSI pulled out of the 10-year commitment in March, ’23. The CT Lottery is in process to select its new sportsbook partner. should go live again at some point this fall, though potential customers will have to wait to find out who won the contract.
Gambling in Connecticut Sportsbetting Quick Facts –
- Lobbyists from MLB and the NBA both testified in support of sports betting in Connecticut before legislation passed.
- Sports betting licenses in the state are good for 10 years.
- Connecticut reached $1 billion in handle in nine months.
- The state taxes sports betting revenue at a rate of 13.75%.
- You can’t legally bet on in-state colleges in Connecticut unless they are playing in a tournament.
Casinos by the Numbers
New England’s nine casinos continue to change. Connecticut’s casinos continue to expand and find new ways to use available space on their properties. Because of the ever-changing status of amenities and gambling options, this post will be updated, if needed on a quarterly basis.
by Robin “Binbin” Aubin