Governor Ned Lamont was absolutely right in rejecting last Friday’s request to use his emergency powers to allow the tribal owners of Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun to offer online gambling while they are closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
First, this was an attempted power play by the tribes to use the pandemic to bypass the legislature not only to gain approval for online gambling but to gain the exclusive right to offer it in Connecticut.
And second, this is exactly the wrong time to put a virtual casino in every sheltering home in the state. According to gambling addiction professionals, the rate of problem gambling disorders, and the resulting social and personal financial problems, increases for online players, including especially those experiencing isolation, loneliness, and depression.
Already, we would point out, Internet gambling addiction is the fastest growing addiction among American kids, high schoolers and college students because of real-time betting access on cell phones and computers.
We believe Governor Lamont spoke for a majority of Connecticut citizens in saying: “Authorizing online gaming and enabling consumers to more easily access gambling is a significant policy decision that has not been embraced or acted upon by our legislature. Doing so at a time when so many Connecticut residents are in financial distress would be a particularly significant policy decision to make without legislative approval.”
Even in the best and most stable of financial times, introducing a way for citizens to gamble from anywhere at any hour of the day poses significant addiction risks. Online gambling is a big public policy change, deserving of a proper legislative process and careful consideration.
State Senator Tony Hwang, Fairfield (Hwang is a Republican representing the 28th District)
Robert Steele, Essex (Steele is a former Republican Congressman, 2nd District, CT)