Gambling in Connecticut is something of a dichotomy. The state has two of the largest tribal casinos in the world—Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun—both of which rival anything that you’ll find in Las Vegas. Outside of these casinos, however, the gambling environment in the state is average at best. Historically, Connecticut has been a very conservative state but the efforts of the Native American tribes pushed things along at a brisk pace.
Parimutuel wagering had been available for some time dating back to the opening of the Plainfield Greyhound Park in 1976. Around the same time, jai alai became popular in Connecticut with frontons in Milford, Hartford and Bridgeport. Jai alai was very popular for awhile—in 1978 the Milford fronton attracted over one million customers and wrote over $70 million in wagering action. It didn’t last long—in 1995, the Bridgeport and Hartford frontons closed. The Milford location would survive until 2001 before closing its doors. For awhile, the Bridgeport location hosted a greyhound track which has since been converted to an OTB facility. There has never been a live horse track in the state though wagering on it (live and online) is explicitly permitted by state gaming regulation as is the case with dog racing and jai alai.
Connecticut has a very profitable state lottery which offers seven draw games, Power Ball, MegaMillions, Keno and scratch offs. Bingo and raffles for charity are also legal as is—oddly enough—duck racing and frog racing. Bingo is also legal for stakes under $1 as long as prizes are under $5.
The native American gaming industry in Connecticut began in 1986 when the Mashantucket Pequot Indian tribe opened a bingo hall on their reservation. Since this land is self governing, it’s exempt from other state laws which allowed the Pequots more flexibility in building their current gaming empire. The Foxwoods Casino started to take its current form in 1992 when table games were added followed by slots in 1993. As of June 2018, Foxwoods is listed as the third largest casino in the world by square footage with 340,000 square feet of gaming space. This puts them well behind the Venetian Macao (546,000 square feet) and the City of Dreams in Macao (420,000 square feet) but well ahead of the Ponte 16 casino in Macao at 270,000 square feet. Interestingly, Nevada doesn’t show up on the list until #8 with the MGM Grand Las Vegas at 170,000 square feet.
Three years after the addition of slots at Foxwoods the Mohegan Tribe opened the Mohegan Sun on 240 acres of reservation land in Uncasville, Connecticut. It has since found considerable success both from gaming and entertainment. It has several theaters and the 12,000 seat Mohegan Sun Arena which is the home venue of the New England Black Wolves of the National Lacrosse League and the Connecticut Sun of the WNBA. Both the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods offer poker, table games and slots along with a race book.
Connecticut may soon allow gaming license holders within the state to offer sports betting. A comprehensive sports betting bill was introduced in early 2018 and Governor Daniel Malloy has been very proactive in his efforts to create a legal framework in the state. The implementation and administration remains a question though sports betting would certainly be offered at the two large native American casinos.