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The Day – Draft of gaming bill details expansion, tribes’ sports betting

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A draft of state Sen. Cathy Osten’s latest gaming bill calls for Gov. Ned Lamont to reach new agreements authorizing the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes to offer sports wagering at their resort casinos, at the “satellite” casino they still hope to build in East Windsor and at three other tribally owned facilities the proposed legislation would authorize in “entertainment zones” in Hartford, New Haven and elsewhere.

The envisioned agreements also would grant the tribes the exclusive right to offer online gaming and sports wagering via computers and hand-held devices from anywhere in the state.

Osten, the Sprague Democrat, announced Tuesday that a bipartisan group of legislators will join her Wednesday in Hartford at a news conference unveiling the bill, now dubbed “An Act Concerning Jobs In and Revenue From the Gaming Industry.”

Not surprisingly, chairmen of both tribes embraced Osten’s proposal, which the General Assembly is expected to take up during the legislative session that begins next week. And, just as predictably, MGM Resorts International issued a statement Tuesday saying it remains interested in opportunities in the state and will defend its right to compete in Connecticut.

The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the draft of the bill.

Gaming expansion has commanded lawmakers’ attention in every legislative session since 2015, which was soon after Massachusetts licensed resort casinos in Springfield and the Greater Boston area. The prospect of competition from MGM Springfield, which opened in 2018, prompted Connecticut’s gaming tribes to jointly pursue their East Windsor project. The legalization of sports wagering has been considered all but inevitable since a long-anticipated 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision that made it possible.

The tribes and Connecticut governors — Lamont and his predecessor, Dannel P. Malloy — have been negotiating amendments to longstanding gaming agreements that spell out revenue-sharing terms tied to the tribes’ exclusive right to provide casino gaming. While the tribes maintain that exclusivity extends to sports wagering, some in state government disagree.

“I am very optimistic that my discussions with Governor Lamont will bear fruit,” James Gessner, the Mohegan chairman, said in a statement. “He and I agree that Connecticut has waited too long to modernize our industry and be competitive with our surrounding states. The Tribal Council also has a great friend in Senator Osten and we are hopeful that the Connecticut General Assembly sees that through the Connecticut Jobs and Revenue Act everyone wins.”

Rodney Butler, the Mashantucket chairman, said he was hopeful that conversations that began last session will lead to legislation this session.

“We continue to work with the governor and legislative leadership to achieve the goal of expanding Connecticut’s gaming economy to bring incremental jobs and revenue to the state,” he said. “We’re grateful to all the delegations from both sides of the aisle that have thrown their support behind the Connecticut Jobs and Revenue Act, recognizing the value of our continued partnership. We’re excited to bring sports betting and online gaming to all of our patrons and to further modernize our gaming landscape to the benefit of the region and the state at large.”

The proposed bill would authorize a tribally owned company to operate a casino gaming facility in Bridgeport, provided the company invests at least $100 million in the venture.

In recent legislative sessions, MGM Resorts has pushed for the establishment of a competitive-bidding process among casino operators, offering to develop a $675 million project in Bridgeport.

“MGM continues to be interested in opportunities in Connecticut, and we strongly believe that the best path for Connecticut, whether in establishing sports betting or moving ahead with a third casino in the state, is an open, competitive process,” the company said in its statement. “As we have said consistently, if Connecticut is to maximize the economic impact of a commercial casino license, a transparent, competitive process is in the state’s best interest. That is equally true for sports betting, and the most direct path to bring the greatest results for Connecticut taxpayers, economic growth and state revenue.”

“MGM will also continue to pursue all legal options, including litigation, to defend our right to compete in Connecticut,” it said.

MGM already has succeeded in delaying, if not outright blocking, the tribes’ East Windsor project through lawsuits, including one currently pending against the U.S. Department of the Interior, which approved the most recent amendments to the tribes’ gaming agreements with the state.

Sportech Venues, which operates the state’s off-track betting facilities, indicated it will continue to lobby for a piece of the state’s sports-betting action.

“We haven’t changed our view,” said Ted Taylor, Sportech’s president. “We think we should be involved. We’re the only operator in the state licensed to take retail bets online. It would be amazing for us to be excluded from any sports betting …”

Osten’s bill also would authorize the Connecticut Lottery Corp. to sell draw-game tickets online and offer internet keno, and it would allow Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun, as well as the proposed gaming facilities in Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven and one other municipality, to serve alcohol until 4 a.m., which is two hours later than the state currently allows.

The new gaming authorized by the bill would generate about $90 million a year in additional revenue for the state, according to Osten, and allow for a greater portion of the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Fund to be divvied up among the state’s cities and towns. The fund now comes from the state’s 25% share of the slot-machine revenues generated by the tribes’ casinos.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com





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What’s It Like to Be an Emergency Goalie in an N.H.L. Game?

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One of the eccentricities of the N.H.L. is what happens when a team runs out of goalies.

Most teams list two on their rosters. In case of the unlikely event that both get hurt, home teams are required to designate an “emergency goalie” for each game: someone who can fill in for the rest of the game, for either team. Generally these are rec league guys or former college players who help out at practice, and get to pick up a few bucks and meet some N.H.L. stars.

Once in a rare while, they actually get in the game.

On Saturday night in Toronto, starting goalie James Reimer of the Carolina Hurricanes was injured in a collision. That brought in Petr Mrazek. Then Mrazek got hurt in a collision of his own. With that, 42-year-old David Ayres stepped in between the pipes for the Hurricanes, up, 3-1, midway through the second period.

The affable Ayres sat for an interview at the N.H.L. offices in New York on Monday. His next stop will be Raleigh, N.C., where the Hurricanes will honor him on Tuesday night. And why not? The Hurricanes beat the Maple Leafs, 6-3, and Ayres made eight saves.

This interview was condensed and edited for clarity.

I’ve heard you described as a Zamboni driver, or maybe a former Zamboni driver. What is your current Zamboni status?

Five years ago I was a full-time Zamboni driver for the [A.H.L.] Toronto Marlies. Then I went to work at an athletics center, where I’m an operations manager. So that’s not my only job, to be on the Zamboni. But I do it when I can.

How often are you the emergency goalie in Toronto?

I’ve done it for three years. Last season I did every home game. This season I opted to do half of them, which ended up turning into more than half.

When you don’t get into the game — as was always the case until Saturday — what’s that experience like?

My wife and I stand up in the standing-room section and just watch the game from the same spot. It can be boring. I like doing the practice stuff — I’m on the ice for practice sometimes — more than standing in the stands for the game. The other day I said to my wife, “I don’t know if I’m going to do this next year.” Then, boom, I got in a game.

What’s your background as a player?

I played in Junior B, which is like second or third level down. I kind of gave up on it. Then I had a kidney transplant, and I thought that would be the end of my hockey career.

So this was your first game situation in many years?

Probably four or five. I played some Senior A hockey. But practicing with Toronto was way more fun.

Where were you when you heard about the first injury, to Reimer?

I was standing in my section, and I saw him go down. Then I got the call: Come on down, bring your gear, get dressed. When Mrazek was hurt, I was in the media room.

Had you ever gotten to that first stage before, when there’s one injury and you get dressed?

That was the fourth time.

Was it awkward to compete against the Leafs when you work with them and you’re a fan?

It’s a little different. At first you kind of try to figure where guys are going to shoot, you’re worried about where each shot’s going to go instead of just playing your game. If I didn’t know the guys on the other team I wouldn’t worry about where they’re potentially going to shoot, I’d just worry about playing my game. It runs through your mind, but you’ve got to block it out and try to make a save.

What was it like when you got that second call and you went on the ice to play?

The guys were waiting for me and cheering me on. Everyone starts to scream and it starts to hit you. You’ve got to try to focus after that. That’s the tough part.

What’s the biggest crowd you had played in front of before?

Not a very big one. Probably a few hundred.

So what was different from what you expected?

I always thought if I went out there, I’d be perfectly calm, no problem. I play with these guys all the time, I’m used to the shots, I’m used to the speed, no problem, this is easy.



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Kobe Bryant Is a Finalist for the Basketball Hall of Fame

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Kobe Bryant, the former Los Angeles Lakers star whose death last month continues to cast a pall over the N.B.A., was among eight finalists announced on Friday for induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Bryant, who was 41, retired from the N.B.A. in 2016 after spending his entire 20-year playing career with the Lakers. He won five championships, was an 18-time All-Star and won the N.B.A.’s Most Valuable Player Award in 2008. A dynamic and hypercompetitive player, he also helped the league fill the void that was left by Michael Jordan’s retirement.

Former N.B.A. stars Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett will join Bryant on the ballot, while Tamika Catchings, a 10-time W.N.B.A. All-Star, was nominated by the women’s screening committee.

Rudy Tomjanovich, Kim Mulkey, Eddie Sutton and Barbara Stevens are finalists as coaches.

To gain induction, finalists need a minimum of 18 of 24 votes from the honors committee, which is made up of Hall of Famers, basketball executives and administrators, and members of the news media. The class of 2020 will be announced in April.

Mike Breen, the longtime play-by-play voice for the Knicks on the MSG Network and the lead voice for N.B.A. broadcasts on ESPN and ABC, won the Curt Gowdy Media Award for electronic media. Michael Wilbon, an ESPN analyst and former sportswriter and columnist for The Washington Post, won the award for print.

Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles on Jan. 26. He was widely expected to be on the ballot even before his death, which prompted an outpouring of grief across the country. A public memorial service is planned for Feb. 24 at Staples Center, where the Lakers play their home games.

Bryant’s death continues to affect players from around the league, including LeBron James, whose long relationship with Bryant had developed into more of a friendship over the last two seasons. James has pledged to continue Bryant’s “legacy” this season on the Lakers.



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FIFA, Seeking $1 Billion for Club World Cup, Hires U.S. Firm to Find It

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FIFA largely blamed costs for scrapping the event, but Domínguez reacted with fury, demanding, in a letter to FIFA, a detailed breakdown on how much FIFA spent to host similar meetings recently in India, Rwanda and China.

After finally bowing to the creation of the tournament, UEFA has so far stymied FIFA’s efforts to secure the participation of the continent’s top teams for the inaugural event next year. It has demanded the field should include winners of its second-tier Europa League competition, while FIFA wants only the continent’s best teams.

The clubs are taking advantage of the tensions. As well as talking to FIFA about the quadrennial World Cup, Europe’s biggest teams have also met with the American billionaire Stephen M. Ross, who is seeking to get them to commit more formally to an annual preseason tournament. Ross’s company, Relevent Sports Group, has held talks with both UEFA and FIFA about securing their backing for an annual event in which participating clubs could secure about $10 million per tournament and an equity stake, provided they commit to several editions of the competition.

FIFA hopes the new revenue stream from an expanded Club World Cup will allow it to invest more in developing the game around the world. But the financial demands of the top teams could make that difficult: Those teams want a model similar to the Champions League, where more than 90 percent of the income is paid out in prize money.

Because of the early opposition to its project, FIFA has found itself in a hurry to get the financing it requires. Some groups that showed initial interest in the event, like Suning Holdings Group, which is based in China, owns the Italian team Inter Milan and is one of the biggest Chinese investors in soccer, declined to make an offer after complaining that there was a lack of detail in FIFA’s tender request.

By hiring Raine to manage the process, FIFA is enlisting an organization well versed in securing deals for sports entities, and one with a presence in China. Led by the banker Joe Ravitch, the firm helped the English soccer champion Manchester City sell a stake worth $500 million to the American investment group Silver Lake Partners in November. And City’s Premier League rival Chelsea has directed any parties interested in acquiring the club from its Russian owner, Roman Abramovich, toward Ravitch.



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