Connecticut became the seventh state to legalize online gaming, including poker, last June. Where does the state now stand regarding a potential launch?
While nothing is immediately on the horizon, state gaming officials have given any potential operators the regulatory go-ahead. The industry is regulated by the Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) Gaming Division in the state.
A representative from the DCP spoke with USPoker this week about the process to bring online poker live in the state.
Open for business, but no poker so far
The good news for online poker in Connecticut is the regulations for online poker became final and effective on Feb. 1. As part of June gaming legislation, retail sports betting launched in September 2021. That was followed by legal online sports betting and casino gaming in October.
However, finalizing “peer-to-peer gaming,” as online poker is known in the legislation, has been a longer process. So far, the department hasn’t heard any interest yet from poker operators or received anything from potential applicants.
When asked whether there has been any discussion yet with other states on interstate compacts, the CPD representative noted: “Not to our knowledge.”
Any operators of online poker must be associated with one of the state’s tribes in order to offer online poker in Connecticut, according to state regulations.
Connecticut has two casinos: the Mohegan Sun, owned by the Mohegan Tribe; and Foxwoods, owned by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation.
Needing to partner up
Are there any obstacles for a launch? The CPD says everything is in place should a company choose to go forward. However, potential operators would need to link up with DraftKings or FanDuel to operate online poker in the state.
“The industry is open and online gaming is active in the state,” the CPD notes. “Operators of online poker need to partner with an online gaming operator to operate in Connecticut. The two operators authorized to conduct online casino games are Betfair Interactive US LLC (FanDuel) and Crown NJ Gaming Inc. (DraftKings).”
That means PokerStars, partypoker US Network, or WSOP.com would need an agreement to become third-party operators. FanDuel and DraftKings could also operate their own poker product if desired as well.
Looking at population
The news may be a bit disappointing for Connecticut players so far. But the process is still early and at some point online poker could become part of the mix.
Nearby New Jersey and Pennsylvania both offer online poker and it seems Connecticut might get on board at some point. With about 3.6 million people, Connecticut is much smaller in population.
However, it’s about twice that of West Virginia (1.8 million). The Mountain State has yet to see an operator enter the market since its own legalization in March 2019.
Obviously, interstate compacts would greatly enhance the viability of both of these markets when it comes to poker. Until then, Connecticut would be a “ringed-in” environment, meaning players only compete with others within that state.
Nevada only has a population of 3.1 million and one operator, WSOP.com. However that platform runs the All-American Poker Network, as the only shared liquidity network in the country. The network includes Nevada, New Jersey, and 888poker in Delaware.
Possibilities for the Connecticut market
Could a ringed-in Connecticut market be successful? That’s what operators will have to decide. One or two operators might be able to carve out a niche, although a small one.
New Jersey is the smallest state operating in a fenced-in environment. The Garden State has more than twice the population as Connecticut however.
Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods may see some positive aspects to being associated with online poker. Both have large poker scenes. Foxwoods boasts 35 tables and Mohegan Sun has more than 20.
Casino officials could see the online game as offering some opportunities for synergy as seen with partypoker’s Borgata Poker online skin and the casino bearing its name in Atlantic City.
Connecticut players are currently in a waiting game and USPoker will continue to update the story as details emerge.