MASHANTUCKET, Connecticut — Two years after launching internet gaming, Connecticut tribes are no closer to offering online poker. And that’s not likely to change any time soon.
Mashantucket Pequot Chairman Rodney Butler spoke to PlayUSA about the missing piece of the iGaming puzzle recently at the Indian Gaming Association Mid-Year Conference, which the tribe hosted at Foxwoods Resort Casino.
Butler explained that Connecticut tribes need to figure out how to enter multistate agreements before they could offer online poker.
“It’s coming eventually. The issue with online poker in every market is liquidity. If you don’t have a large enough pool, it’s not as successful. And so we haven’t gone down the path of trying to identify how we do those multistate agreements and the like that would build enough liquidity for it to be worthwhile for the players and for us.”
CT iGaming law prevents multistate agreements
Four states with legal online poker have joined together to combine player pools and address the liquidity issue. Michigan, New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware are part of the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement.
When Connecticut lawmakers legalized online casino, they did not allow for multistate agreements. And with a population of less than 4 million, Connecticut doesn’t have enough people for a robust poker market.
So the Pequot and Mohegan tribes would need to go back to the legislature and ask for a change to offer online poker.
That’s not a priority for the tribes. Butler predicted that, at some point, the tribes might want to go back to the legislature to ask for improvements to sports betting and online casino offerings. And that’s when he could see online poker getting addressed.
Otherwise, online poker in and of itself isn’t a big enough money-maker for tribes to ask for a change.
“We want to make sure that we’re maximizing iGaming and sports betting, and if we need any fixes there then that’s what we’ll go back to the legislature for,” Butler said. “If there’s an opportunity to add a multistate access on the liquidity side for poker, we’d do that then too.”
Foxwoods has a long history with poker
Foxwoods’ background in poker makes it a shame that the Pequot haven’t yet embraced online poker.
The casino opened its first poker room in 1995. It grew to be one of the largest poker rooms in the nation during the poker boom and is a regular host of World Poker Tour tournaments.
But the state of online poker nationally makes it understandable that Connecticut tribes aren’t prioritizing the activity.
As PlayUSA columnist Steve Friess explained earlier this year, online poker isn’t a priority or success anywhere in the country at this time. It could take a revival of interest in poker to motivate Connecticut tribes to pursue the activity.
“We’re so early in the sports gaming and iGaming world that we’re still learning how to emphasize that,” Butler said. “We will get there eventually, I’m certain of that. But the priority right now is iCasino and sports betting.”