Connecticut Lottery seeking to close retail sportsbook deal

The Connecticut Lottery Corporation is currently undergoing a negotiation process to host a wagering retail destination site in Bridgeport. The city was promised an in-person sportsbook when state lawmakers legalized sports betting last year.

After the lottery failed to finalize a deal with the city’s new amphitheater – the Hartford Healthcare Amphitheater-, it is now negotiating with an unnamed venue, which local media says could likely be the entertainment arena next door. Andrew Walter, the Lottery’s director of business and legal affairs for sports betting, stated last week that the corporation is moving “aggressively” in Bridgeport, as reported by CT Post

Last year, Walter had assured that the goal was to open a wagering location in Bridgeport during the first half of 2022, confirming the sites of interest included the Hartford Healthcare Amphitheater; the Total Mortgage entertainment and sports arena next door; and the Steelpointe redevelopment.

Hartford Healthcare Amphitheater

This week, however, Walter acknowledged the delay and attributed it to the Lottery pivoting “from one entity we thought we were moving forward with, and that didn’t happen for a variety of reasons.” He confirmed the Lottery will now move in a new direction and is “still evaluating some things,” planning to move forward “with a different party.”

Howard Saffan, developer of the municipally-owned, privately-managed new amphitheater, said that building was originally going to host the new sports betting site. “We entered into conversations with the Connecticut Lottery. We believed we had a deal with them. And then, at the last moment, economically the deal changed and it didn’t make sense for us to go further,” he stated, according to the cited source.

In a statement, officials for the arena next door said that no agreement has been reached yet, and they “look forward to continue conversations with all involved.” The facility is owned by Bridgeport and leased to the Bridgeport Islanders Hockey Team, and could become home to the wagering destination now that the amphitheater is seemingly out of the picture.

State Rep. Antonio Felipe, who represents the downtown, said he understood that the amphitheater and the arena “were always the two places that were most prominent” in Lottery’s talks. Speaking of the arena, he pointed out that “there are some advantages to being there, namely the sporting events we do have going on over there from time to time,” which also have included Fairfield University men’s and women’s basketball and Sacred Heart University hockey, aside from the Islanders.

After failing to bring a casino to Bridgeport for decades now, city officials pivoted to making sure at least one of the state’s 15 licensed sports wagering retailers would open locally. In December, Walter said the retail destination goal there is to do something “a little bit more than a sports bar.”

“It’s just finding the ideal partner to move forward with that is taking a little bit longer than maybe I would have liked,” he added, according to CT Post. The lottery official said that given Bridgeport is a major city, the Lottery wants to do something there “to maximize” sports betting retail sales. “I don’t foresee it as the ‘come and go’ type place,” he added.

While no timeline has been set yet, Walter said that it is possible to have news about Bridgeport, and other sports betting locations in the state, in the coming weeks.